Letters to the Editor: Geauga Times Courier, Jan. 28, 2016

Park regulations bypassed

      This is an open letter to the newly formed Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners:

      I would like to welcome Len Barker and Jackie Dottore to the park board. I am sorry I was unable to attend this meeting and look forward to meeting you.

      I had requested and received a park board packet and was familiar with the agenda and business to be covered at the meeting. I just reviewed the video of the meeting.

      I was very surprised and disappointed and appalled with the decision made by Executive Director John Oros to bypass park regulations and waive the rules for snowmobiling in the park. This is a highly irregular act and does not have precedent, to the best of my knowledge. What is the purpose of a board of commissioners if the executive director makes unilateral decisions about waiving park regulations? This is insulting to you as a board and to the residents of Geauga County who rely on the board and the park staff to enforce the regulations of the parks.

      You will find the park regulations on the park website. Page 13 covers use of motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles. The dissatisfaction from members of the audience was not frivolous but was in direct response to blatant violation of park rules and regulations and blatant unilateral decision making by the executive director.

      I hope that you will do your due diligence and read the rules and regulations. Has there been a feasibility study of this proposed park use? While I believe that some of you voiced support of “trying” an activity before making a final decision, this is not a professional way of doing business in an organization.

      The park district is a public, not private, entity, and the public expects that rules and regulations will be followed by all staff, including the director.

      I also found it irregular that such a contentious issue was not on the board agenda. I will be investigating further the ramifications of this action. It was in poor form and disrespectful to both the public and you as a board to present this decision without including it on the agenda and without following protocol of board procedure.

      To Commissioner Bill Gertz, I appreciated your comments and look forward to having further discussion with you on this issue

Barbara Partington. Munson

Snowmobiling goes too far

      Some readers may be wondering why there are so many letters voicing concern about the Geauga park system. After all, the Geauga parks have long been considered to be one of the best, adding to our property values, enjoyment, health and well-being for years. So what’s all the fuss about?

      For decades, before Judge Chip Henry’s tragic death, our parks enjoyed the excellent stewardship of a group of park commissioners who were far-sighted and knowledgeable, who demonstrated respect and awareness of conservation and land management and who worked well with park naturalists and staff.

      But since Judge Timothy Grendell has been in charge, the park system has lacked stability and expertise. In late 2013, the entire park board was arbitrarily removed and replaced by various individuals, most of whom seem to have no experience, knowledge or interest in conservation. And since then, there has been a constant turnover in board positions appointed by Judge Grendell.

      There have been many instances of poor judgment and a major shift in philosophy by Judge Grendell, and these new park commissioners — changing the times of board meetings, thus limiting public review; ignoring the results of the survey given to the community; promoting operations people while eliminating a new naturalist position; promoting playgrounds and equipment over passive enjoyment of nature, etc. — but the latest authority given to Executive Director John Oros cannot be ignored by any of us who value the Geauga Park District.

      Mr. Oros has arbitrarily decided to allow snowmobiling in Observatory Park. Snowmobiling. It’s hard to imagine any activity that is more intrusive, loud, destructive and dangerous and less in keeping with the true value of our parks and what most of us seek when we visit.

      Please join us in Protect Geauga Parks to preserve our wonderful park system. Even for those who are not “nature lovers,” our park system affects us all in raising property values. providing clean air and water and promoting good health and well-being. Let this be a legacy we pass on to our children.

Maybe judge just nice guy

      Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell has taken plenty of criticism in recent months for his oversight of the Geauga Park District and his appointment of park commissioners that seem come and go from the board like birds at a bird feeder. But I have come to wonder if some of the criticism is unfair. For example, he is sometimes accused of “cronyism.”

      Now, it is true that, shortly after being appointed probate judge, he used the power of his office to create a court constable position. Previously, no probate judge had his own constable. A Geauga County sheriff’s deputy has always provided security to the court. Judge Grendell named his campaign manager, John Ralph, to that new constable position.

      It is also true that, after the firing of former park district Director Tom Curtin, Judge Grendell used the power of his office to order a $16,000, no-bid contract to study park district personnel “leadership,” to be completed by Linda O’Brien, a recently failed tea-party candidate and political friend of the judge.

      I know there are other examples that his critics rattle off, but my point is this: Why do people have to call this “cronyism”? Cronyism is such a pejorative term. As these two examples show, maybe the judge is just a nice guy, using the power of his office and his court budget to take care of a few friends, people he likes and cares about? What is so bad about that?

Todd Ray, Munson

Categories: News

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