Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell said he wants to meet with Russell Township Trustees to discuss appointments the Russell Park Board and has again invited them to his courtroom in Chardon.
But trustees maintained their previous position that they would meet with the judge but only in a public session at one of their own meetings in Russell.
Trustee Jim Mueller said of meeting in the judge’s courtroom, “I am not going to visit the Dark Lord in his Star Chamber.”
The Judge originally invited trustees to a meeting in June.
In his letter dated Sept. 22, Judge Grendell said there is an open seat on the park board and expects another opening possibly by the end of the year. “The court is conducting a vigorous effort to solicit applications from Russell Township residents in order to give every resident an equal opportunity to serve their community,” Judge Grendell said.
The park board was created under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1545 which gives the county probate judge the responsibility to appoint members to the three-panel board.
Judge Grendell also has sent post cards to all residents in Russell inviting them to apply for a seat on the park board.
Judge Grendell said in his letter to trustees last week that he is “aware of your recent complaints about park board appointments, and as previously stated in my last invitation to host a meeting with you, it is my goal to work amicably with you and consider the issues you may have.
“Therefore, though not required by law, I would like to invite you to provide input into the selection process by meeting with me to openly discuss board appointment options,” Judge Grendell said. “We also invite you to submit a recommendation of individuals for consideration for the appointments.”
The judge added that any meeting with trustees would be open to the public regardless of location.
“Because the statutory appointment process is a judicial function, the court remains the appropriate location for the meeting,” the judge wrote.
“If your recent complaints about the Russell Township Park District Board appointments are true, I trust you will take advantage of this opportunity to have input in the statutory judicial appointment process,” he said.
He suggested Oct. 2 and Oct. 15 as good meeting times.
Township Trustees have hired attorney Todd Raskin as outside legal counsel to represent them in the matter. Mr. Raskin had notified the judge after the first invitation to meet in June that the trustees wanted to meet at one of their regular meetings in Russell.
Trustees referred Judge Grendell’s second invitation to Mr. Raskin for his review.
The trustees have initiated action to form a second park board under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 511 which calls for trustees to appoint board members. Russell voters will decide on whether the new park district will be formed during the Nov. 7 election. Three board members have been named by the trustees, as outlined in the formation process. If approved by voters, trustees could dissolve the older 1545 park district.
In response to the latest letter from Judge Grendell, Trustee Justin Madden said trustees are not interested in meeting with the judge but they are waiting to hear back from Mr. Raskin.
Mr. Mueller noted that the township trustees had made an offer to the judge to meet at one of the trustees’ meetings in Russell. “He is trying to interfere with our park,” Mr. Mueller said of the new 511 park board formation.
“He pushed off three people who had done an excellent job with 30 years of collected experience on the 1545 park board,” Mr. Mueller said. He questioned the purpose and cost of the judge sending postcards to residents.
In the meantime, a committee has been formed to educate the public about the 511 park board ballot issue during the general election.