Mingo council addresses ethics issue

MINGO JUNCTION — An alleged violation of state law concerning a councilman being paid to do maintenance work at Aracoma Park this summer was addressed at Tuesday’s Village Council meeting.

Councilman Jack Brettell was paid for three months of work at minimum wage at the park.

Ohio Revised Code states a member of a village council cannot be employed in the village.

Mayor Ed Fithen said the job opening was advertised, but nobody applied. He said he makes the decision on hiring.

“I’ll take the blame for it,” Fithen said. “If we made a mistake, then I take the blame for it.”

Brettell said he is willing to reimburse the village for the $1,800 he earned, working from Memorial Day until shortly before Labor Day when he announced his resignation from the position after a couple council members raised concerns.

Councilwoman Jodilynn Fitzgerald addressed council during the meeting.

“In June, it was brought to my attention by a village employee of what they felt might be a misappropriation of funds to a part-time park employee who also was a village councilman. Had this situation been brought to council before this hiring occurred, it could have been discussed, addressed and a solution found. I stand firm in my opinion that an ethics violation will show that a violation (of state law) has occurred,” she said.

“For those saying political motivation is why we are discussing this, I would say that ethics and doing what is right are the driving factors. If I am worried about political ramifications of choosing between what is right from wrong, then I do not deserve to be sitting at this table or in this seat,” Fitzgerald added.

Brettell said he took the job under the advice of Fithen and Law Director Ernest Wilson.

“I don’t think I did anything wrong. I would have had to be a stupid idiot knowing the way this is turning out,” Brettell said after the meeting.

Council had discussed the issue during prior executive sessions.

Fithen said the village has received numerous compliments about how the park looked during the summer.

“We are working with a minimum number of employees, and they are doing a heck of a good job,” the mayor said.

Councilman George Irvin said he believed Brettell had good intentions in doing the work at the park. He doesn’t look at it as malicious. He added some council members believe it was wrong, and state law is clear on the matter.

Village Administrator Bob Smith said he is still not satisfied with the quality of the paving work done this summer on several village streets. He said he is still in discussions with the contractor to remedy his concerns.

Fithen announced the last senior swim will be held on Saturday. Smith said the pool will be closed and drained on Sunday.

Police Chief Joe Sagun said he has purchased body cameras for officers at a cost of $6,250, more than half of that the expected cost.

Sagun also asked council to consider adding a detective to his staff. He said a detective would be beneficial in solving crimes, especially drug sales. Council asked village Clerk James Huggins to prepare a financial report if the addition of a detective could be afforded. Council will meet at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24, prior to the regular council meeting, to discuss the issue.

Council approved the third reading of an ordinance changing the dates of council meetings. Council will meet the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, except in June, July and August, when only one meeting will be held a month on the third Tuesday of the month.

Council approved an ordinance giving authority to the mayor to enter into a contract with Trebel of Mansfield to manage the gas and electric aggregation programs in the village.

Council approved an ordinance to purchase a dump truck at a cost of $92,500 through the state’s cooperative-purchasing program for use in the service, water and wastewater departments. The cost will be equally shared by those departments.

Council approved an ordinance approving the amendment of the JB Green Team management plan to allow the solid waste district for Jefferson and Belmont counties to purchase a building at the Jefferson County Industrial Park to house equipment. The approval of the amendment is needed by governmental entities in both counties.