Mr. Webster called the Organizational Meeting of Belpre City Council to order at 9AM. The roll was called with the following members present: Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Gant, Mr. Martin, Ms. Miller, Ms. Riffle and Mr. Shutts present. Also present was Mayor Lorentz, Safety Service Director Ms. Hoblitzell, City Auditor Miss Pittenger, City Law Director Mr. Webster, and Clerk of Council Mrs. Meredith. Absent from the January 1st, 2020 Organizational meeting was Linda Copeland.
Mr. Webster asked that everyone please rise for the Prayer and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor Lorentz gave the invocation.
Select President Pro-Tem of Council:
Mr. Webster thanked everyone for coming today. After the discussion we had in regards to the 1st Ward Council Position and the Council President Protem, we will select the President Protem of Council to run the meeting today. You six voting members have the say as to it is going to be. Mr. Webster opened by asking for a motion for President Protem to run this meeting only. Mrs. Miller nominated Dave Ferguson. Mr. Shutts nominated Larry Martin. Dave Ferguson made a motion that the nominations be closed. Mr. Webster stated all in favor say aye. All voted aye. Mr. Webster stated that it is a verbal vote. The roll was called with Mr. Ferguson voting for himself, Mr. Gant voted for Mr. Martin, Mr. Martin voted for himself, Mrs. Miller voted for Mr. Ferguson, Ms. Riffle voted for Mr. Martin, Mr. Shutts voted for Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin assumed the position of President of council pro-tem.
Mr. Martin thanked everyone and welcomed them to the Organizational meeting of the City of Belpre. I will conduct this as professionally as I can. We have two positions open and like the law director stated the only thing this election was for right now was voting for Council President Pro-tem. Going forward we want the community of Belpre to be able to voice their opinion for what goes on in this chamber. This is why this meeting is open and conducted the way it is. We have a 1st Ward Council position that became open as of midnight last night. What council would like to do is recommend a 1st Ward Council Person. Mr. Ferguson nominated Bill Locke to assume the position of 1st Ward Council person and that term would end December 31, 2021. He would serve his full 2 year term. Mr. Webster stated that the selection doesn’t have to be made today however you can if you want to. Mr. Gant made a motion to close the nomination. Ms. Riffle asked Mr. Locke if he would accept the position. Mr. Locke stated that that is why he is here.
Leslie Pittenger 813 Ashberry Drive, Belpre stated that Mr. Locke is a fabulous choice for the position.
Judith Drake 713 Oak Tree Lane, Belpre commended Mr. Locke for accepting the position. He is a wonderful selection for the position.
Lynda Shutts of Walnut Street will be a great asset to the council. He will do the job well.
Pam Thomas 1613 Washington Boulevard, Belpre thanked council for doing the job for her. Mr. Webster stated that since there was no candidate for the position the party would choose who the 1st Ward Council person is because there was no incumbent. It has to be elected by council and not the Republican Central Committee. I talked to the Ohio Municipal League and this is their decision since there was no one on the ballot in either party. This is typically why both positions are being selected this way.
Ms. Riffle asked for a point of clarification and that is we did have a candidate but he wasn’t certified. There was a name on the ballot. Per Mr. Webster,he was ineligible to be certified as he was not an elector because he no longer resided in the City of Belpre.
Judy Drake stated at the last council meeting Mr. Webster referred to the fact whether he was certified or de-certified. At this point I tried to contact the Board of Election and they were closed until the 6th of January. I was with the Prosecuting Attorney at the time the call was made as to whether or not Mr. Campbell was certified or decertified. There was no answer from the Board of Election. He was not eligible to be certified. At that point if he was certified there will have to be a decertification. The person in charge of the Board of Elections at that time did not answer the question.
Mrs. Thomas stated that it would have been nice to be notified with the letter from Mr. Webster since that is the district for which I represent. I think since you were the writer of this letter I should have been notified. Mr. Webster apologized and said that he really didn’t think of it. Mr. Webster stated that this is a non-partisan issue and since it is a non-partisan issue I have not contacted any party.
Mrs. Miller commended the law director for the amount of work he has put into this. It doesn’t happen all the time and I appreciate him sorting it out.
The roll was called for the motion that was made by Mr. Gant to close the nomination. The roll was called with all members of council present voting aye.
The roll was called to vote Mr. Locke in as 1st Ward Council person. All members of council present voting aye. Mayor Lorentz swore Mr. Locke into his position. Mr. Locke thanked everyone for their support.
Second item on the agenda is the election of the President of Council. Mr. Martin stated that it was the same type of scenario. The former President of Council resigned the 1st meeting in May as there was no meeting held on Memorial Day. Mr. Martin was sworn in as Council President to fulfill his position until his term expired the last day of December, 2019. My term ended at midnight last night. We have an empty position as Council President. We are going to move forward this evening with the vote the same as we did for 1st Ward. I will open it up for Council for any suggestions or any thoughts. Mr. Ferguson nominated Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin asked for any discussion. Mrs. Miller stated she felt that we were moving on with things without the public even being aware of what is going to happen. I think we should wait until the next meeting of Council. Mr. Martin stated that he respected her feelings however he was going to move forward with the vote. Ms. Riffle stated that it was posted in the paper and she thought we should move forward. Mr. Martin stated that it was announced at the December 9th, 2019 meeting. Mr. Gant made a motion to close the nomination. Mr. Webster stated that he wasn’t sure whether or not Mrs. Miller was making a motion to continue this decision before we do the election. All seven will vote. Mrs. Miller stated that it was a motion to suspend and readdress on the 14th. Ms. Riffle asked for a point of clarification on the voting. Mr. Webster stated that by voting no it means that you do not go along with suspending until the 14th of January. Voting yes you want to wait until the 14th of January.
Judith Drake 713 Oak Tree Lane Belpre stated that she felt the public has been well informed. Council is knowledgeable of their duties and responsibilities. This issue has been well publicized.
Mr. Ferguson stated that even if you waited the outcome would probably be the same. No reason to postpone.
The roll was called with all members of council present voting no and Mrs. Miller voting aye. Motion failed.
Mr. Martin stated that we have a previous motion by Mr. Gant to close the nomination. The roll was called with all members of council present voting aye and Mrs. Miller voting nay. Nomination is closed.
Mr. Martin called for a vote on the nomination itself. The roll was called with all members of council present voting aye.
Mr. Webster stated that now two things have to occur. One Mr. Martin will have to be sworn in as President of Council and Second Mr. Martin must resign as Council at Large. I’m sure he doesn’t have his resignation made but will need to do so ASAP.
Mr. Webster addressed Mrs. Thomas and said that once he resigns it will go back to the Republican Party because he is an elected candidate. His Council-at large position will be filled by the Republican Central Committee for the next two years.
At this time Leslie Pittenger swore in Mr. Martin as our new Council President for the term ending December 31, 2021.
Mr. Martin stated that he would prepare his resignation letter and would send to the Mayor,
Ms. Pittenger stated that she would like everyone that was sworn in today to see her so they can get paid.
Mr. Locke thanked everyone for their support, their wives and the community.