The Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners will remain a three-member board for the time being following a park board vote rejecting a proposed expansion to five members.
At the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, President Andrej Lah and Commissioner Jackie Dottore voted against the resolution that would have expanded the park district board from three to five members, while Vice President Howard Bates voted in favor of the resolution.
Mr. Bates proposed expanding the park board from three to five members at the board’s March meeting, citing concerns that commissioner absences were preventing the board from conducting its regular business. A March 12 scheduled park board meeting was rescheduled to March 19 after Mr. Lah’s and Mrs. Dottore’s absences from the meeting resulted in a lack of quorum.
Ohio Revised Code statute 1545, under which the park district was set up, states that, “Any board of park commissioners of a park district may elect to expand the membership of the board from three members to five members upon a majority vote of the board. Upon such a vote, the board shall certify to the probate judge a resolution requesting the judge to appoint two additional members to the board.” Neighboring park districts in Mahoning, Trumbull and Portage counties have five-member boards, while Geauga and Lake counties have three.
Executive Director John Oros provided the board a copy of the ORC statute as well as a list of whether other park districts in Ohio had three- or five-member boards.
Mrs. Dottore said she had done her own research into the matter and found the majority of Ohio park district boards have three members. She said she opposed the expansion and would like to see more research on why other boards expanded and how the other districts’ acreage, budgets and more compared to Geauga before considering the expansion.
“I would say my personal opinion is that it takes 30 seconds to add government, but a whole lot of years and decades to remove it,” Mrs. Dottore said. “And this is something that if we were going to consider, it needs a lot more research than this, than just showing me which ones have three and which ones have five, in my opinion.”
While the statute is written to allow for the expansion to five members, there is nothing allowing for the reduction back to three once a board elects to expand.
Mrs. Dottore also noted that while there have been rumors circulating in the community that Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell, who oversees the board and appoints board members, requested the board expansion, she never spoke with him regarding the matter. Mr. Lah said while he had not heard the rumor, he also had not been in discussions with Judge Grendell about the size of the board.
Mr. Bates asked Mr. Oros whether he received any information regarding the benefits to expanding to a five-member board, and Mr. Oros said it hasn’t been a topic of conversation when he meets with leaders of other park districts. Reiterating his opinions from the March meeting, Mr. Bates said he thinks expanding would allow operations to continue despite commissioner absences for sickness or other obligations.
“My concern is over the last two and a half years, at these meetings about 30 percent of the time we’re short members. Unfortunately one time in the last month we didn’t have a quorum. I think there’s some benefits to having five members,” Mr. Bates said. “I don’t see the weakness of adding five.”
Mrs. Dottore said she believed the March meeting was the first time in her tenure on the board that there was not a quorum present.
“I think this is not a solution to a problem. This is a problem looking for a solution. I don’t agree,” she said. “I’ve never been for adding more government and I never will be, and again this could take without having proper research a whole lot of implications that can never be removed for years.”
With the resolution failing, the board will continue to operate with three members for the foreseeable future, although a resolution of expansion can be proposed and passed at any time for any reason.