MUNROE FALLS — City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-2 to publicly reprimand one of its members.
Six of the seven members sponsored legislation to formally reprimand Council Member Mike Barnes in connection with a public records lawsuit that Barnes filed against the city in August 2018. In a settlement agreement in the case filed in July, all parties "agreed to fully and finally settle all matters relating to the Complaint and the Counterclaim."
Barnes voted against the reprimand and was joined in his "no" vote by Council Member John Hegnauer.
Barnes said he was "disappointed but not at all surprised" by Council’s vote.
"It is hard to wrap my head around six city councilors getting together to punish a public official for following the constitution and upholding his oath of office," said Barnes. "No whistleblower will go unpunished in Munroe Falls."
While he declined to immediately comment on Tuesday, Hegnauer previously said if the reprimand was approved, it "sets a precedent to anyone who disagrees with anyone else on Council and I have a problem with that."
City Council President Jenny Markovich earlier said she and her colleagues were "very upset with the fact that we had to spend ... over $42,000 to bring this to a close when it could’ve been handled for less than $100." After Tuesday’s vote, Markovich said she was ready to move forward and put the issue behind her.
In a previous meeting, Law Director Tom Kostoff characterized the reprimand as a "public scolding," and told Barnes that the resolution "does not affect your abilities to act as a councilperson." On Tuesday, Kostoff said he was not going to offer any further comment on the reprimand resolution.
The legislation went through three readings beginning with Council’s meeting on Aug. 6. Nearly all of the residents who spoke during Council’s three regular meetings and one committee meeting voiced objections to the reprimand. On Tuesday night, Steve Gatto said the reprimand was "embarrassing" to the city, citizens and Council. Linda Piccirillo-Smith said she could not find a provision in state law or in the city charter that bans a current city council member from filing a public records lawsuit against the city and urged Council to vote no.
See the Sept. 8 edition of the Stow Sentry for more on this story.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.