Thursday, October 16, 2003

Councilman quits over series of closed meetings



By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

[photo]
Patrick Henry Irelan, who resigned council, still is a school crossing guard in Waynesville.
Enquirer file

WAYNESVILLE - A politician known for dressing as Ebenezer Scrooge each Christmas has said "Bah, humbug" to Village Council.

Councilman Patrick Henry Irelan, 77, resigned his office last week after council called its third executive session in a row. He called that an abuse of the ability of a public body to close its sessions for certain matters such as personnel issues.

"I don't believe in secret meetings," he said. "Executive sessions are used 90 percent of the time because bureaucrats want to hide from the public."

Irelan, who also volunteers as the northern Warren County village's school crossing guard, resigned from council in April 1996 over the same complaint. He was reappointed 45 days later and said there hadn't been a problem since then with executive sessions until recently.

Citing Ohio's sunshine law, which prohibits closed meetings with certain exceptions, Irelan said holding three meetings in a row in executive session was an "insult" and a "slap to the face" to the citizens of the village.

"If we hold these executive sessions, all the people at the coffee shops and the good old boys make up what happened," he said.

Waynesville Mayor Ernie Lawson said in the three years he's been mayor, roughly 15 executive sessions have been held, all in accordance with Ohio law.

Executive sessions allow councils and other governmental groups to meet without the public when discussing personnel or land purchases, while conferring with attorneys and to prepare for union bargaining sessions.

"While I respect (Irelan's) position, I am worried about these accusations of impropriety," said Lawson, a member of council since 1995.

"The last few executive sessions we've held were about personnel issues we needed to discuss. We don't want to open up the village of Waynesville to multimillion-dollar libel suits."

Irelan resigned from nine other community boards with his decision, but Lawson wants Irelan to keep his post on the Warren County Regional Planning Executive Session until his term runs out.

"Pat remains my closest adviser; and while we disagree, we're basically on the same page of most issues," Lawson said.

The village is seeking applicants for appointment to the term that ends Dec. 31, 2005.

E-mail jgambrell@fuse.net




TALL STACKS
Photo gallery of Day 1
Water taxi is scenic route to Tall Stacks
Bell magicians do it again
Copter takes the high tour
Latin flavor spices up the night
Of white gloves and shady characters
Music doesn't end when festival closes
Underground Railroad alive at Sawyer Town
Admission a bargain, but extras do add up
Running low on cash stack at Tall Stacks? Check deals
McCoury Band bluegrass masters
Daily schedule
What you can do, see elsewhere around town
Tall Stacks gives push to ailing hotel business
Party Scene
Volunteer's journey to past

TOP STORIES
City Hall assailed over Chinese slur
2 plead guilty in 'flipping' case
Ads alert Ohioans to $500M decision

IN THE TRISTATE
UC breast cancer researchers to explore nongenetic causes
Fire department reinstates chaplain
Construction begins on Evendale surgery center
High school football coach suing to get job back
Ex-Elder principal Kuhn charged in Montgomery Co.
Diverse group to guide UC future
Regional Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Pulfer: Many pitching in - but it's not enough
Howard: Good Things Happening

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Passenger guilty in crash that killed four teens
Township rejected in appeal on firing
Blackwell enters Warren Co. fray
School board, council candidates see critical growth, funding issues
Hamilton now owns hospital property
Modular classrooms ace test
Councilman quits over series of closed meetings
Culverts blamed in sudden floods
Trustees move on storage policy

OBITUARIES
F. Begnoche took pride in construction
Lloyd Ryan, 80, drove city buses for 44 years
Breathitt recalled as bold governor
Kentucky obituaries

OHIO
Ballot language OK'd for tax increase repeal
Toledo Zoo sends one of two elephants packing
Senate: Let voters decide on video slot machines
Museum to chronicle history of funerals
Community joins to help reap late farmer's 90 acres
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
N.Ky. residents urged to sign up for flu shots
Fletcher distances himself from GOP attack commercial
Mentoring program plants seeds of success
Trial begins in death of woman
Kentucky News Briefs