September 1, 2014

Elyria
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Discord continues among members of Rural Lorain County Water Authority

PENFIELD TWP. — Penfield Township Trustee Lloyd Gordon said Tuesday that Rural Lorain County Water Authority General Manager Tim Mahoney and members of Rural Water’s board asked him last year not to appoint the wife of another township trustee to the board.

Gordon said he finds that particularly troubling because Pittsfield Township Trustee Mark McConnell was ousted from the Rural Water board in a secret vote last week in part for lobbying other township officials to remove some of his fellow board members.

“What’s the difference between them asking me about that and what Mark McConnell did?” Gordon said.

The board is scheduled to revote publicly on whether to remove McConnell during a meeting at 7 tonight after questions were raised last week about the legality of using a secret ballot in a public meeting.

Penfield Township officials also said they were asked by Mahoney and three board members during a meeting last March to allow Rural Water to review the minutes of township trustee meetings in which the water board was criticized before those minutes were published in local newspapers.

“They wanted to censor what we put in our minutes and what we publish,” Penfield Township Trustee Duane Johnson said.

Gordon said he didn’t recall what was specifically said during the March 6, 2012, meeting, but he did remember Mahoney coming out to his house to discuss Rural Water issues last year.

Among the issues Mahoney wanted to discuss was who would replace former Penfield Township Trustee Tom Younglas as the township’s representative to the Rural Water board when Younglas’ term ended last year, Gordon said.

Among those being considered for the position, Gordon said, was Johnson’s wife, Jackie Johnson, who routinely attends Rural Water meetings.

Gordon said Mahoney and some Rural Water board members, whom he declined to identify by name, were concerned that Jackie Johnson would ask too many questions if she was appointed.

“They don’t like people who ask a lot of questions,” Gordon said. “They like people who will go to the meeting and say yes.”

Jackie Johnson said she does ask a lot of questions, which she believes is a good thing.

Mahoney said he recalls visiting Gordon at his house but said he never asked him not to appoint someone to the board. He said he tries to stay out of board politics, although he has written letters to various appointing authorities detailing what board members do on the board when those members have asked him to do so.

Mahoney also said it didn’t make sense for him to lobby against Jackie Johnson being named to the Rural Water board because Penfield Township trustees traditionally appoint one of their own to represent the township on the board.

Duane Johnson said he would have abstained from voting on whether his wife would serve on the Rural Water board, but he and his fellow trustees ultimately decided to name Trustee Rick Conrad to the position.

Mahoney also denied that he and Younglas, along with board members Dennis Abraham and Dora Miller, were trying to censor what Penfield Township was putting in their meeting minutes. Abraham and Miller did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

“We were upset that some things were mentioned that weren’t true, and we wanted to set the record straight,” Mahoney said.

What they appear to have been upset about was the minutes from the Feb. 7, 2012, board meeting in which Duane Johnson raised concerns about the board.

“Duane Johnson said that the township is unhappy with the rate increase from Rural Water and the compensation of the Board and employees being extravagant,” the minutes said.

At the March 6, 2012, meeting Mahoney defended rate increases, as well as the $85.60 that Rural Water board members are paid for each meeting they attend, according to Penfield Township’s minutes of the meeting.

“Abraham asked that complaints (be) put in writing and sent to the board for response,” the minutes said.

Conrad said it was clear what the Water Board members wanted.

“Dennis Abraham wanted us to talk to him before we put anything in the minutes,” he said.

Penfield Township Fiscal Officer Vicki Denes, who took the minutes at the March 6, 2012, meeting said she, too, had concerns with what the Rural Water board members appeared to be asking.

“They were concerned about the content of those minutes and wished we had discussed our concerns with them,” she said.

Gordon said he’s dismayed by infighting on the board because he thinks the authority is well run on a day-to-day basis.

“Service has been excellent,” he said. “It’s just the board has too much power, and they’re not listening to their customers.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.