The following article appeared on Chagrin Valley Today, the website of the Chagrin Valley Times. Our thanks to the Chagrin Valley Times for permission to republish the article here.
Chagrin Valley Times
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 11:45 pm
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell is calling for a status hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the probate court in regards to the Russell Park Board.
He has issued subpoenas to former park commissioners Roy Podojil and Sandy Siegler, current park commissioners Linda O’Brien and Charlie Butters, Mary Modroo and Western Reserve Land Conservancy Director Richard Cochran to appear in his court. The Modroo farm has been the subject of discussion between park commissioners and Russell residents who want levy funds to be use to purchase the farm for a future park. The estimated cost of the 52 acres is $1.5 million.
Those subpoenaed have been instructed to bring copies of contracts of sale purchase agreements and written appraisals of the Modroo property from Jan. 1, 2013 to the present.
Judge Grendell, responsible for making appointments to the Russell Park District, recently named Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Butters to the commission. They replaced Terry Ries and Mr. Siegler, who recently resigned. The third longtime member Mr. Podojil also resigned recently and Judge Grendell is expected to name a replacement soon.
“I want to have a meaningful talk on the status of the Modroo property in a less volatile environment,” Judge Grendell said in a phone interview.
In a May 9, almost 200 people jammed Russell Town Hall for the Russell Park Commissioners’ meeting. Most residents voiced support for the Modroo purchase.
Now, he said, “I want to get to the facts here.”
Demanding the purchase without an appraisal or a contract is reckless, Judge Grendell said. “I’m not against the purchase. I just want to get the facts, and hope we can move forward, pursuing the purchase in a business-like manner without emotions.
“It has to done rationally. Over $1 million can’t be spent without a thoughtful process,” Judge Grendell said.
“I didn’t ask the former two commissioners to quit,” he said of Mr. Siegler and Mr. Podjil. Now, two people who are new to the commission must make decisions and they have a big job of learning about the matters. “It’s not fair to hammer the two new people.
“I do not direct or tell the park commission members how to vote,” he added.“That is their statutory duty, not mine.” All he expects is their compliance with the park district’s bylaws and state law.
As to the Modroo property, that decision is solely in the hands of the park commissioners, he said.
Judge Grendell said he was not even aware that the township park district was actually pursuing the purchase of the Modroo property until after meeting with Mr. Siegler, which followed Mr. Podojil’s resignation. The Modroo situation was never discussed prior to the appointments of Mr. Butters and Ms. O’Brien, he said.
“This is not a conspiracy. Had the two former commissioners not quit prematurely and stayed on board this would not be an issue, he said. “There is no agenda here,” he said, noting some maintain there is an effort to stop the purchase of the land.
The judge said that he has spoken at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’ annual dinner, knows the Modroo family and provided legal services to the family during his private practice.
“If everyone proceeds calmly and business-like, I’m hopeful this will work. I moved to Geauga County because I am a big supporter of green space. I’m hardly anti-parks or anti-green space.”
Judge Grendell’s court is located on the second floor of the Court House Annex in Chardon.
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