Update is at the end.
By: Diane Benjamin
Thursday night I road tripped with the Edgar County Watchdogs (John Kraft and Kirk Allen) to Stark County. We attended a “Special” County Board meeting which occurred because the meeting on Tuesday was adjourned after the citizens who showed couldn’t all fit in the room. The chairperson did not handle re-convening this meeting according to law, therefore it was an illegal meeting. More on what happened in a minute.
The first thing you need to know is Stark County is tiny – only around 5800 people. At least TWO HUNDRED attended this meeting:
All of these people were there to support their Sheriff.
Evidently the Board Chair and Vice Chair have decided they run the County themselves, including the Sheriff’s office. The rest of the Board sits back and says nothing. (Sound familiar?) The Vice-Chair skipped the meeting.
The County doesn’t run the Sheriff’s office because the Sheriff is elected by the people. The Board has slashed the budget of the Sheriff making it impossible to do his job without going over it.
This County Board has been at war with the citizens for at least two years. Thursday night the citizens won.
Two videos of the meeting are included in this story posted by the Watchdogs: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2017/06/video-stark-county-sheriff-upholds-rule-of-law-shuts-down-county-board-meeting/
The first video is the entire meeting including 14 citizens, more didn’t speak because of the County’s illegal Public Comment policy. The second video is how the meeting ended featuring both Watchdogs. John Kraft addresses the Public Comment Policy towards the end. If you need to see what a few passionate citizens can accomplish, watch the entire meeting. Most received standing ovations from the crowd, even the clerk and police applauded. Many called for the resignations of two Board members.
The Board Chair asks the Sheriff to control the crowd more than once. He has one hilarious attempt at doing that – you have to watch the first video to see it.
The last to speak was Kirk Allen. He was forced to violate the Public Comment policy. He did inform the State’s Attorney and the Sheriff he was going to before the meeting started. He quoted the State law for Counties, and then tied their violation of failing to publish notice of this “special” meeting to the Open Meetings Act. When the chair said she was going to continue the meeting anyway, Kirk called for the police to do their job.
Enforcing the law still happens. Watch the citizens cheer the victory and some of the Board members slink away in defeat when the meeting abruptly ends.
Yes, this Board was elected. The Chair harassed employees into quitting, treated citizens like serfs, and failed to set legitimate priorities in the budget. This meeting proves the citizens have the power to correct their voting errors. 200 people from a tiny County sat in a hot cafeteria for more than an hour to demand change. No one there knew the Watchdogs were coming, that isn’t why they showed up.
I expect resignations soon. 200 citizens will be responsible for making that happen.
Change doesn’t happen here because 200 people can’t be bothered. What does it take?
This Peoria Journal Star article from June 7th explains why the citizens showed up! http://www.pjstar.com/news/20170607/tension-escalates-between-stark-county-sheriff-and-board-chairwoman