WOODMERE — Mayor Ben Holbert used his veto power for the first time since taking office in 2018 on three ordinances approved last week by council involving calling meetings, donations and a new council handbook.
Council met for a work session on April 29 at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library where the three ordinances were discussed. The measurers were approved as emergency provisions on May 8, but two of the seven council members, Alberta Fanning and Lisa Brockwell, were absent from that session.
One ordinance specifies that special council meetings can only be called by the council clerk, the council president or Village Council with a vote of four or more members. The mayor is not permitted to call a special council session, according to the ordinance.
“This ordinance only allows for the council and council clerk to initiate a special council meeting,” Mayor Holbert wrote in his statement to veto the ordinances. “It is my opinion that the current mayor, and executive officers in perpetuity may have occasion to request Village Council to convene in special session for the purpose of public safety, employment issues, financial concerns or any other matter deemed of importance to the mayor.”
Council passed another ordinance that would require the mayor to submit a report to council when accepting donations between $250 and $1,000. Mayor Holbert wrote that council did not solicit input from him, Law Director Frank Consolo or Treasurer Tom Cornhoff about the ordinances. The mayor also questioned whether this ordinance pertained to an isolated issue – a $1,200 donation to the village regarding the holiday party expenditures – or if it was just for the welfare of the village.
“Without debate, various scenarios by which it would be responsible for the mayor to accept donations was negated by a hasty vote of the Village Council,” Mayor Holbert wrote.
In addition, council passed an ordinance to adopt the new council handbook, which council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley wrote using information from government reference works and various municipal manuals. Mayor Holbert said that the handbook was not made available to the public and there was no opportunity for public input or debate. The mayor said that questions need to be answered about who reviewed the document and the legality of the document.
“Given the importance of such a document, why was it rushed through and not available for community input or comment?” he wrote.
Council suspended the rules of three required readings for each ordinance before voting to approve them. Mayor Holbert said that there was no reason for those ordinances to be on emergency. By eliminating three readings, Mayor Holbert said that council did not give the administration the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns about the ordinances.
He also questioned the location of the work session in Beachwood, stating that although the meeting was open to the public, the meeting was not held in a location that is nearby and easily accessible to the residents, such as the council chambers at Woodmere Village Hall.
The mayor may veto an ordinance up to 10 days after council passed it. Then, council must reconvene and address the mayor’s objections, according to the village charter.