Deer group files formal complaint

Wants judge to remove MetroParks board members

YOUNGSTOWN — The attorney for a group of people opposed to the reduction of deer in the Mill Creek MetroParks has filed a more formal complaint with a visiting judge, asking all of the MetroParks commissioners to be removed from office.

Attorney Marc Dann filed the complaint April 2, saying the group asked for the removal of the commissioners because they “believe there are good grounds to remove the commissioners.”

The group delivered petitions containing 2,450 signatures to Judge Robert Rusu Jr., Mahoning County probate judge, Feb. 5, but Rusu recused himself from the case, and retired Carroll County Common Pleas Court Judge John Campbell was appointed to handle it.

Campbell met with the group for a “status conference” in March to discuss their petitions and advised them to provide more details in a more formal filing that better explains what the complaints are so that the individual or individuals named in the complaint “has the opportunity to respond.”

Campbell explained “In the practice of law, we try to do something called notice. You plead so the other side knows in advance what the questions are.”

The Marc Dann filing that resulted lists several ways in which the deer supporters believe the commissioners failed in their duties. One is allegedly ignoring an earlier petition that Mickey Drabison, one of the deer supporters, delivered to the park commissioners Dec. 11, 2023, seeking the removal of Aaron Young, the MetroParks executive director.

“The commissioners refused to act on the petition nor did they respond to address the petition to remove the director,” the complaint states.

“At the March 11, 2024, meeting of the Board of Commissioners, the commissioners dismissed the petition and the thousands of signatures specifically stating on the record at an open meeting dismissing the executive director was not an option because ‘he makes money for us,'” the filing states.


Lee Frey, president of the MetroParks board of commissioners, was asked about that allegation, and he said “That was never, to my recollection, ever said.”

Frey said the response the park commissioners gave was “We talked about it. It’s 1.5% of the population reflected in the petition. We feel (Young) is doing a good job and that minority should not be dictating policy.”


Dann’s filing also said the group has “raised reasonable concerns about hunting activities near their homes, and (the) commissioners refused to modify or adopt basic safety measures to provide reassurance that property owners would not be adversely affected by these hunting activities,” the complaint states.

That is a reference to the deer reduction program the MetroParks carried out from Oct. 1, 2023, through late January of this year and resulted in 204 deer being killed. The MetroParks has argued that damage to plant life in the park has occurred due to an overabundance of deer in the park system and that reducing the number of deer is the solution.

The new filing adds that during the hunting portion of the deer reduction program that involved hunters participating in an Ohio Department of Natural Resources lottery hunt in the parks, the park commissioners “allowed the park parcels to be hunted without ever closing the park, endangering visitors, especially children.”

The filing said the commissioners also “allowed persons unfamiliar with the park boundaries to hunt in the park and refused to post notices anywhere to advise where hunting was and was not permitted.”

When told of that part of the complaint, Frey said “There were signs and instructions on the signs for the hunting, to stay on the trails while the hunting was in progress in all of the places.”

He said “people knew there was hunting going on. All of the hunters are licensed hunters who took a safety course in order to hunt at the MetroParks.”


Frey said he thinks Rusu asked for another judge to handle the petition and complaint from the deer group to see if “a separate voice, maybe can get something done” regarding the dispute between the deer group and the MetroParks.

Frey said he questions whether the petition that was presented to Rusu asking the MetroParks commissioners to be removed can legally be used in that manner because it appears the signatures were originally obtained to ask for the termination of Aaron Young, not the park commissioners. “I don’t understand how you can use the same petitions,” he said.


Dann’s complaint concludes that “The Board of Park Commissioners is not fully representative of the community at large in that it does not reflect the alternative perspectives on park management and does not have a sufficient diversity of members from across the many political subdivisions that comprises Mill Creek Park.”

And the petition asks that “each of the Mill Creek Park commissioners be discharged from the board and that each be replaced by members who shall submit applications to this honorable court for consideration.”

Campell has scheduled a second “status conference” on the matter for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Mahoning County Courthouse.

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com.


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