Source:The Mount Sterling Village Council meeting from Jan. 9. Council member Diane Spradlin and Mayor Lowell Anderson begin to argue at about 4:02 into the video. Spradlin’s remarks during the round table discussion and the ensuing spar with the mayor begins at about 41:50.
Tensions flared between a council member and the mayor at the first Mount Sterling council meeting of the year during which the mayor revealed that the village’s fiscal officer is resigning.
Mayor Lowell Anderson said Cindy Miller had submitted a letter of resignation, citing a number of personal and health issues. He would not elaborate further on the situation.
The issue was brought up when Anderson requested an executive session, not specifying the purpose beyond “personnel issues.”
Council member Diane Spradlin asked for the exact purpose of the private session, citing the Ohio Sunshine Laws, which according to the Ohio Attorney General states that “a motion ‘to discuss personnel matters’ is not sufficiently specific and does not comply with the statute.”
The two ensued in a back in forth debate, captured on video by a resident. The two discussions begin at about the four minute and 42 minute marks.
“I’ll tell you what it’s about, it’s about whether or not we have the resignation of our village fiscal officer. Now you brought it out. That’s the issue. I don’t need an executive session. That’s done,” he said, slamming the gavel on the desk.
“Next time I have an issue and I ask for an executive session, I’m not going to take any questions about it,” he added.
Spradlin attempted to clarify why she was raising her concern before being gaveled down again by Anderson.
“One more out of words out of you [sic], I will ask for you to be removed,” he said, rising from his chair, gavel waving in the air. “We’re not discussing this anymore.”
Anderson dropped the discussion on Miller’s resignation, deciding that an executive session was no longer needed. The rest of council remained silent throughout the exchange.
At the conclusion of the meeting during the roundtable discussion, Spradlin said to council that she wanted to make sure they were conducting the meeting in accordance to Sunshine Laws.
“I do not consider it noise to expect the mayor to adhere to the Sunshine Laws, specifically ORC 121.22, which specifically stipulates how executive sessions are to be conducted. It is not sufficient,” she said. “It specifically states it is not sufficient to say that an executive session is to happen for personnel reasons. It quotes those very words.”
Spradlin asked council for a “New Year’s resolution” to conduct meetings strictly in line with open meetings laws, while also avoiding executive sessions as much as possible to keep information in the public light.
“I mean, when your chief fiscal officer is resigning, that’s certainly something that should have…..”
She was interrupted by Anderson, who again gaveled her down.
“I’ve had enough of this. Meeting adjourned,” he said.
Spradlin asked for the date of Miller’s last day.
“I’m not revealing any more of that letter,” Anderson responded. “Whether it’s noise or whatever, we’re going to run this meeting in an order. If I have to rap the gavel, I will rap the gavel.”
Spradlin proceeded to remove her shoe to hit on the desk, in an apparent move to respond with her own gavel. She did something similar in a previous confrontation with Anderson during a debate over closing down the village’s police department years ago.
“Don’t you dare,” Anderson said, standing up. “I’ll get you put out of here right now. I’m not going to tolerate this anymore. The meeting is adjourned.”
Anderson adjourned the meeting without a motion from a council member.
Village council has previously had issues with apparent Sunshine Law violations.
In November, council discussed in executive session a resolution to discipline Spradlin for comments she made on Facebook. In addition to not specifying the purpose of the session beyond “personnel issues,” council discussing discipline or disputes with an elected official’s conduct is not permitted in executive session.
The Press has requested a copy of Miller’s resignation letter. She’s been working in the position since March.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.