LAGRANGE — An outspoken Rural Lorain County Water Authority board member said Wednesday that he has been the target of attempts to intimidate and silence him.
James “Pete” Riley, who represents Sullivan Township, showed the board a graphic letter that he said was mailed to his home and was opened by his sick wife.
The letter featured a hand drawn picture of a person whose head was inside his own rectum.
“Hey Jim,” the letter read. “Your problem is obvious.”
It was then signed “from all of your friends on the RLCWA Board.”
Riley said while he doesn’t mind criticism if it is directed at him, it was inappropriate to send the letter to his house. He said although the letter was addressed to him, his wife called to tell him he had a letter, and he asked her to open it.
Board President Stanley Wares said it was wrong for someone to send a letter like that to Riley.
“It’s unbecoming of what this board’s all about,” Wares said.
Riley also had Rural Water General Manager Tim Mahoney read a letter to the board in which Riley recounted a confrontation he had with a fellow board member, whom he refused to identify.
In that letter, Riley wrote how on Nov. 14 his wife received a call from the other board member and he returned the call. He said the board member wanted to talk to him in person and they agreed to meet that day in Wellington.
“With his very first words, he made it clear, that he was very angry with me. He said that he and several other board members are very angry with me,” Riley’s letter said. “He told me that board member (Mark) McConnell did a lot of bad things that I didn’t know about.”
McConnell, a Pittsfield Township trustee, has twice been ousted from the Rural Water board over allegations that he disparaged a fellow board member and lobbied to have other board members removed by the township trustees who appointed them. Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge has ordered McConnell temporarily reinstated to the board while he weighs whether to make the order permanent.
Burge has said that the Rural Water bylaws that allow the water board to remove a member with a majority vote and replace them doesn’t appear to be in line with Ohio law.
Riley has been among the minority of board members who have backed McConnell and has repeatedly questioned the legality of numerous actions the board has taken.
Riley’s letter stated that the other board member said that McConnell was trying to remove the other board members because of a land deal, although that wasn’t specifically detailed. The other board member also demanded to know who had provided him with information about the removal of Bernie Nirode several years ago by Wellington Township trustees, an issue Riley brought up last month.
“He attacked me in a way that I believe was a deliberate attempt to cause a fistfight inside a public place,” Riley wrote. “I believe he was deliberately trying to get me in trouble to keep me quiet.”
Riley wrote that he left the restaurant but was convinced that his fellow board member was “dangerous to myself.”
Riley offered for the board member to offer his side of the story, but no one spoke up.
After the meeting, in which he raised concerns about what he described as errors in the minutes of the November meeting, Riley said he wasn’t going to be intimidated.
“I’m going to keep speaking,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.