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Trumbull commissioners’ unwritten voting rule must end

If you’ve ever attended a Trumbull County commissioners meeting, it might have struck you as odd that items appearing on the meeting agenda never, ever fail to pass.

That’s largely because an unwritten Trumbull County commissioners office rule requires that at least two of the three commissioners agree before any item ever makes it to the board’s weekly public meeting agenda.

We were surprised to learn recently about the existence of this quiet agreement, even though it apparently has been a longstanding tradition in the county commissioners office.

The policy should never have started, and now it should very quickly go away.

Frankly, any commissioner who wishes to broach a topic of public interest or introduce a resolution for public discussion and possible passage always should have the opportunity to do that. Let’s face it, each commissioner has been duly elected by his or her constituents to represent them in whatever way the commissioner sees fit.

But requiring two of the three commissioners to give a thumbs up to any topic before a clerk places it on the public agenda serves only to squelch public discussion and further quiet opportunities to discuss topics that any commissioner in the minority wants to bring forth for the public good.

The unwritten policy easily could be used to keep items off the agenda and out of the public eye, especially in a strongly politically divided commissioners office like the one that exists today.

Consider that in recent months, new Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko, a Republican, frequently has been at odds with her fellow Commissioners Frank Fuda and Mauro Cantalamessa, both Democrats. The rule could be used to grind to a halt any suggestions or ideas that Frenchko wants to bring forth.

The unwritten policy came into play in recent weeks, for instance, when Commissioners Fuda and Cantalamessa chose not to support public consideration of Trumbull County joining the Western Reserve Transit Authority to provide new, expanded public transportation for county riders.

Frenchko had supported joining WRTA, or at least bringing the issue to a board vote. Because she was not supported by at least one of her fellow commissioners, the matter has effectively been killed with no further public debate.

At any given time, election results could swing this trend, immediately and effectively shutting down any commissioner’s plan or desire.

And that’s not even to mention that the policy clearly appears to skirt public meeting laws by requiring discussion about whether an issue will be supported or passed before it ever makes it to an agenda.

Indeed, this unwritten rule goes against any requirement for transparency or public access to information. It must immediately come to a halt.

editorial@vindy.com

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