Resolve Dispute in Bellaire

It appears trouble may be brewing in Bellaire, and action should be taken now to avoid more problems later.

Village Council members seem to be at odds with the mayor over who gets to be the boss. The fact is, however, that the people of the community should be in charge. The mayor and council members were elected by the voters to represent their interests and to do what is best for the entire village.

Last week, Mayor Vince DiFabrizio apparently scheduled a mayor’s court session at or near the time of a regularly scheduled council meeting on Thursday. He had hoped that council members would attend the court session to learn more about how the proceedings are conducted before holding their meeting.

Some council members found this prospect unappealing, so they issued a notice that the council meeting would be rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23. Despite the fact that the media, council members and the public were notified of the planned change, DiFabrizio held court and then conducted a meeting afterward, primarily with members of the village administration present and no action taken.

DiFabrizio said. “It was a very good meeting. We accomplished a lot without council members.”

Now he and council are at odds over who has the authority to cancel or reschedule a meeting. Since it is a meeting of the council, members believe they have the right to change it. The mayor, however, presides at the sessions and believes he has the sole authority to schedule them.

“Those are my meetings; under Ohio Revised Code, I am president of the legislative body,” he told our reporter.

In addition to this dispute, community members learned this week that Village Administrator Scott Porter is resigning his post to become the service director for Martins Ferry. That means DiFabrizio will play an even bigger role in the day-to-day affairs of the village until the vacancy is filled. And it is DiFabrizio who gets to appoint Porter’s replacement.

Bellaire already has plenty of challenges ahead, with aging infrastructure and costly mandates to meet. The water department, for example, has been up to $300,000 in the red within the past year and needs additional funding to complete $4.5 million in state-mandated upgrades to the treatment plant.

Now is not the time for village leaders to squabble over who is the boss. The mayor and council should consult with Solicitor Joe Vavra to determine their roles and responsibilities. Then they can resolve their differences and get back to work for their real boss — the people who elected them.