RUTLAND, Ohio – New council members tackled various issues including the resignation of the mayor at the regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 18, 2017.
The meeting was attending by a large group of people in addition to council members Kimberly Wilford, Cliff Kennedy, Lowell Vance and Rick Bolin.
Following the roll call, the meeting began at 6:10 p.m. with the announcements of the resignation of April Burke as mayor of Rutland Village. The resignation letter from Burke was read.
In it Burke stated, “I cannot knowingly under good faith make decisions asked of me by previous council and clerk that will put the Village of Rutland, myself and former council in harm’s way of litigation proceedings. At this time I believe I cannot be of any help to the Village of Rutland, I will not do unspeakable things to jeopardize my integrity due to gossip and no proof of allegations. I have been advised by a wise man that when it comes to a point when you can no longer help its time to part ways. As of midnight today December 16, 2017 I will resign my position as the Mayor of the Village of Rutland. I regret that I am not finishing out my term but deem this necessary. I will not be a part of any false allegations or mistrust. I wish all of you the best and hope that you will do what’s right for the village and everyone involved!”
Burke did not elaborate on the alleged allegations.
Her resignation was not the only one council accepted. George Ellis also resigned, but cited it was due to lack of help with his mother. Eugene Dent also resigned citing family concerns. Dent worked in maintenance for the village.
Following the acceptance of the resignations, the council moved to go into executive session to consult with the village legal counsel on potential legal issues at 6:15 p.m. They returned from executive session at 6:48 p.m. with no action taken.
Bill Stewart then presented his intention to circulate a petition to dissolve the village stating things were, “The worst I’ve ever seen it with these cops.” He said something needed to be done, citing the closing of the Rutland Department Store and people not wanting to drive through the village anymore.
Stewart was there with counsel, Will Kernen. It was discussed about what would happen with the debt including a reported $90,000 plus in taxes on property the village owns. Kernen discussed the amount stating there is a form which should have been filled out by previous council for tax exemption on property taxes. That paperwork was never done according to Kernen. There were questions from council and several of those attending the meeting as to what would happen to the debt if the village were to dissolve. The township would assume the assets and the debt presumably as well according to the discussion which followed.
Stewart said there was an issue with people saying they would not come back to the village after their encounters with speeding tickets. Stewart who owns Fox’s Pizza Den in Rutland said it was effecting business adding, “Everybody lives here knows we have a problem with the cops patrolling in this town.”
Council member Lowell Vance said there had been an issue prior to the police being in the village and there were complaints then because they didn’t have law enforcement. He added that he has heard people complain concerning being ticketed for just being over the speed limit by a couple of miles per hour. He said he had not seen evidence of such tickets. He said the issue made the council look like “bastards.”
Discussion continued, but Stewart agreed to hold off circulating the petition three or four months to allow the new council time to try to turn things around in the village.
During discussion when Stewart was talking about the speeding tickets, Rutland Chief of Police Shannon Sheridan said there were times Rutland officers did not pull Stewart over because they didn’t want to put up with the fight. In that discourse, Chief Sheridan said he did not take a salary. Vance clarified that Sheridan is paid hourly not salary. Sheridan said he donated everything back to the village that he did not take pay for the position.
The statement concerning pay and the Chief of Police then led to a discussion on Sheridan not being able to volunteer. A member of the audience asked if the Village of Rutland was paying into PERS for Sheridan, which they do. Sheridan maintained he wasn’t there for pay.
The issue with several vacancies was then brought up. Currently the council needs several seats filled. The current council said several people have expressed interest. The council will have to fill all of the six council seats and the mayor’s seat.
A complaint about a $500 ticket involving the photo ticket system, Blue Line was brought up. Information was taken and the matter will be followed up by council further.
There was no mayor’s report or clerk’s report as no one was in either position to provide a report.
Some discussion was had on Chief Sheridan providing a report to council. Kim Wilford said that Sheridan was familiar with the protocol and type of report the council was expecting to receive. She said to continue to do what the previous council had asked of him until the new council had time to review the protocol. Sheridan had no report at the meeting, but argued he was down to one officer now. Wilford said at the last meeting it had been discussed, but Sheridan “gave us a 40 minute talk” instead. Sheridan said Burke had told him to disregard the council’s directives to create a report.
The condition of the building across from Pizza Dan’s was discussed. Vance said he wasn’t sure owner was still alive. The matter was still being looked into in order to get someone to deal with the condition of the building.
The council voted to table paying into PERS for Sheridan and his hours until the next council meeting. The purchase of long sleeve shirts for an officer was also tabled since the council did not have the clerk to find out where the finances stood.
Under new business, David Davis was on the agenda with a complaint concerning Sheridan. Davis gave permission for the complaint to be read during the meeting. In the complaint he alleges that Sheridan confronted Davis on Dec. 14, 2017. Davis said in the complaint Sheridan was threatening him, “by saying I needed to shut my mouth or he would shut it stating that his lawyer would sue me if I said anything to anyone about him.”
Sheridan vehemently defended himself saying he had always done the right thing. Sheridan stood up and went into a long rehash of the events surrounding former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly. Sheridan said he was the reason Pat Kelly was in jail because of Sheridan’s efforts to expose corruption at the Athens County Sheriff’s Office. He said he was reported on negatively by the Athens Messenger because of an alleged relationship with Kelly and someone at the Messenger (such connection did not exist), but Sheridan said that to the council and all those in attendance.
Council member Kim Wilford said Sheridan’s past was not what they were discussing and they needed to stay on the current events in question.
Davis was not the only one with a complaint about Sheridan. Angela Edwards also made a complaint stating on Dec. 14, 2017 that, “Chief Sheridan did willfully, with malice and intent to intimidate me by threatening me with a law suit if I ever again talk to his employer about any wrong doing or his past.”
Jessica Larsen also had a statement concerning Sheridan. In it she outlined that on Dec. 4, 2017 she heard a phone call from Sheridan to her husband, Brad Larsen (a Rutland police officer). Brad Larsen had the phone on speaker and Jessica Larsen said she was in the other room, but could hear what Chief Sheridan said. The conversation involved “Officer Groves and Angie the Clerk.”
In the statement, Jessica Larsen says Ralph Groves was notified via of certified letter of his layoff. Sheridan proceeds, according to the statement, to go into the reasons why Groves was no longer working at Rutland Police Department. She says Sheridan stated there were various reasons including being insubordinate, Groves didn’t wave at the mayor (then April Burke), and that Groves was going “behind the Chief and Mayor’s back with the help of the previous council members making waves trying to get rid of me (Sheridan) and the mayor (Burke).”
The council voted to table addressing the complaints at the next meeting with all voting yes except for Rick Bolin, which was not enough for the motion to pass. The council went into executive session at 8:21 p.m. to discuss possible employee disciplinary action. The returned from executive session at 8:46 p.m. The decision on action regarding the complaints was tabled until the council could look into matters further and consult with legal counsel.
The discussion concerning Groves was taken at issue because Groves was there requesting a hearing of appeal on his termination. Sheridan maintained that Groves was laid off for financial reasons because he worked on the Blue Line monitoring for issuing speeding tickets. The photo ticket system has been discontinued by the village. Groves said the letter stated he had been terminated without giving any reason and without prior warnings. Groves had worked in other capacities as a police officer for the village beside Blue Line and had several people attest to him working in other areas as well. Sheridan then stated that it had been Burke’s decision to let Groves go. She was not present at the meeting and no cause was shown for why Groves had been terminated from his position.
After discussion the council voted to reinstate Groves as an officer with the village and also voted to reimburse Groves for two weeks of pay of 64 hours that he had lost and would have normally worked. Wilford asked Groves to “give us a chance” on addressing the back pay because they were just coming into this. Groves said he would.
It was then unanimously voted that Kennedy and Wilford would be on the checking account for the village.
Former Clerk Angie Edwards said she would stay on long enough for the council for find a replacement, but it was on a very temporary basis. It was noted Edwards had already been removed from the accounts by Burke. Edwards said she did not want to be added back either.
A question of council members being able to speak with the village’s legal council. According to several present the council could not directly speak with the attorneys, everything had to go through the mayor. Wilford said that had been addressed and taken care of.
Kennedy motioned to adjourn the meeting at 9:08 p.m.
The next Rutland Village council meeting is set for Jan. 15, 2018 at 6 p.m. in the village hall.