Judge tells Mill Creek board to respond to deer group’s concerns

YOUNGSTOWN — The appointed judge hearing a complaint filed in Mahoning County Probate Court by deer supporters has asked Mill Creek MetroParks board commissioners to respond to 11 issues raised in the complaint.

Among the issues is the allegation that the commissioners “have failed to exercise due diligence in the performance of their duties by merely ‘rubber stamping’ the decisions made by (the park system’s) executive director.”

Judge John Campbell, a retired Carroll County Common Pleas Court judge appointed to the case by the Ohio Supreme Court, notified MetroParks leaders in a mailed April 26 judgment entry that there are 11 paragraphs in the deer supporters’ complaint to which he would like the MetroParks to respond by about May 13.

The entry went to Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director, and the five parks board commissioners: Lee Frey, Germaine Bennett, Thomas Frost, Jeff Harvey and Paul Olivier.

A group of deer supporters delivered petitions containing 2,450 signatures to Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert Rusu Jr. Feb. 5, but Rusu recused himself from the case.


Other issues raised in the complaint are that the commissioners “refused to act on the petition, nor did they respond to address the petition to remove the director” and “dismissed reasonable safety concerns raised by constituents who live near or adjacent to the park.”

The Vindicator asked Frey for a response to the complaint earlier this month, and he said he believes Rusu asked for a visiting judge to handle it to see if “a separate voice, maybe something can be done.”

Frey said he questioned whether the petition asking the MetroParks commissioners to be removed could legally be used in that manner because it appears the signatures were originally obtained to ask for termination of Aaron Young, not the park commissioners.

“I don’t understand how you can use the same petitions,” he said.

When asked about the group complaining that the commissioners did not respond seriously to the deer group’s petition asking for the removal of Young, Frey said the commissioners’ response was “We talked about it. It’s 1.5% of the population reflected in the petition. We feel he is doing a good job and that the minority should not be dictating policy.”


The judge’s ruling specifically excluded from this discussion issues related to harm to residents living near the parks while hunters and U.S. Department of Agriculture-employed sharpshooters killed and removed deer with guns and archery during the reduction program last fall and winter. The ruling said those matters “are covered in another case” and involve Ohio Department of Natural Resources authority.

That is a reference to the pending lawsuit being heard by Judge Anthony Donofrio of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, which asks a judge to find the deer-reduction plan illegal.

The deer petitions asked for the removal of the park board’s commissioners, citing various issues, including the deer reduction program the park system carried out from October through late January that reduced the deer population by 204.

Other issues Campbell sought a response to were the complaint’s allegation that the park commissioners “refused to address concerns from constituents regarding police response times to Springfield Woods (Metropark), despite complaints to commissioners” and “complaints about the park hiring contractors from outside the county or pleas to hire local contractors.”

It asks for a response to the allegation that Young “has eliminated Mill Creek Park employees without justification,” and Young “has eliminated much of the park’s programming, including summer music programs at the Morley Pavilion, children’s Easter egg hunt, children’s Halloween party, reptile show, children’s summer camp, annual kite festival, 7UP Summerfest, Shakespeare Festival at the Morley, Fellows Riverside Gardens author lectures, orchid show, and others.”

The last allegation is Young eliminated the 25-year contract with Buckeye Horse Park, which is a nonprofit group that provides educational and competitive equestrian opportunities.”

The complaint was filed by the deer supporters’ attorney, Marc Dann, who has also questioned the Ohio Supreme Court’s authority to appoint a visiting judge in this matter.

The county probate judge is tasked with making appointments of park board members and members of other boards in Mahoning County.

Have an interesting story? Email Ed Runyan at erunyan@vindy.com


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