NORDONIA HILLS — Northfield Village and Macedonia voters respectively will have choices as to who will occupy the village mayor’s office and two City Council seats when they mark their ballots Nov. 5. Both races feature candidates who serve on their town’s legislative councils and have recently been censured.
All other races in the area are uncontested, with mostly incumbents running unopposed.
Ward B Village Council member Keith Czerr is challenging incumbent Mayor Jesse Nehez.
In Macedonia, Creekside Parkway resident David Finley and Firestone Lane resident Jeff Garvas are challenging Council-at-Large Representatives Shane Barker and Kevin Bilkie.
Both Czerr and Bilkie were recently censured.
Nehez is running for a third term, which would begin Jan. 1. Czerr’s term on Council does not end until Nov. 30, 2022.
Council voted 5-0 to censure Czerr at a special meeting Oct. 16 for posting what were deemed to be racially and sexually offensive videos on social media. Czerr was to have been officially reprimanded at Council’s Oct. 23 regular meeting, but the meeting was canceled.
Czerr was present during most of the public portion of the meeting, which served as a hearing on the matter, and presented a defense. But he left just prior to Council adjourning into a closed-door executive session to discuss the matter and was not present afterwards when Council publicly voted on the censure.
A video was shown as evidence during the meeting, which Village Law Director Brad Bryan said showed Czerr wearing what appeared to be a skeleton mask and making comments "kind of making light of sexual assault of women."
Czerr told the News Leader in an Oct. 22 voicemail message that he felt the censure violates his constitutional rights to free speech.
"My First Amendment right was violated and even though I’m a Council person, I still have a First Amendment right," he said. "I never gave up any of my unalienable rights, ever, and I put them on notice at the meeting. I let them know what they were doing, and yet they still went ahead with the censuring."
Czerr said the video shown at the meeting was made and posted to YouTube five years ago and people in the village had known as long as a year ago about it.
"It’s never been red flagged or anything by YouTube," he said. "If it was red flagged, they would have kicked me off YouTube. It might be a little creepy because sometimes my videos are good and sometimes my videos were bad. But anyway, I meant no one no harm on the video and they wanted to make an issue of it because it’s basically a smear campaign and a defamation of my good character."
Czerr added, "I’m going to continue on with my campaign, keep on going."
As part of the censure, Czerr lost his Council pay for four months and the loss of all committee memberships for the remainder of 2019.
Macedonia City Council approved a resolution to censure Bilkie on Sept. 26 without talking about the specifics of what Bilkie was accused of.
"Kevin Bilkie is hereby censured and reprimanded by a majority of the remaining members of Council for his conduct, which has detrimentally impacted council as a whole, as well as the city of Macedonia and its residents, and which constitutes gross misconduct as contemplated by Section 4.13(a) of the city charter," states the resolution.
In a statement made in late September, Bilkie said, "It is more of an ego-check thing, and because of this I think I’ll be a better person and council representative.
As part of the censure, Bilkie was suspended for the Oct. 10 regular meeting, during which he could not vote or take part in Council deliberations, his pay was suspended for October, he was stripped of his chairmanship of and membership on Council’s finance committee and he lost his seniority earned during his time on Council, which began in January 2016.
Incumbent candidates running unopposed include Macedonia Mayor Nick Molnar, Northfield Village Council-at-large members Jenn Domzalski and Gaty Vojtush, Northfield Center Trustee Rich Reville and Fiscal Officer Andy LaGuardia, Sagamore Hills Trustee John Zaccardelli, and School Board members Chad Lahrmer and Liz McKinley.
The Sagamore Hills fiscal officer race had been contested, with township receptionist Laura Steimle challenging incumbent Scott Gale, who was running for a fourth term. Gale however, withdrew from the ballot in early September, citing as his reason long hours he put in as fiscal officer in addition to his full-time job as Akron Municipal Court deputy clerk of court and his desire to take a vacation.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.