Do Park Commissioners Len Barker, Jackie Dottore, and Bill Gertz, have an agenda that will radically change the nature and direction of the Geauga Parks?
Ohio laws specify that Park Commissioners do not have the right to keep the public in the dark about their rationale and decision making processes. There are safeguarding statutes like Ohio’s Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law, together known as the Sunshine Laws, which give Ohio citizens the right to demand transparency and accountability from their representatives.
The Geauga Parks have endured firings of key personnel, reckless amendments to by-laws, the extended absence of an executive director, a series of rapidly changing appointments of Park commissioners and stonewalling in response to questions from the public about the rationale behind their actions. Additionally, in 2014 a team of Park Commissioners and an acting Park Director fumbled their budget presentation to the County Budget Commission, which resulted in the suspension of a levy passed by voters to support the Parks.
Protect Geauga Parks, a local grassroots watchdog organization, has witnessed persistent questionable practices at monthly meetings of the Park Board and in responses by Park officials to public records requests. These repeated questionable practices indicate violations of both the Open Meetings and Public Records provisions of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws.
As such, Protect Geauga Parks has retained Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services to review Park Board meeting minutes and documents obtained through public records requests from November, 2013 through May, 2016. After viewing the records, Fair Shake has reported, “We are concerned that the District and the Board have adopted a tendency to routinely, even deliberately, skirt the responsibilities of the public records law in an effort to prevent meaningful operational transparency.”
Protect Geauga Parks has invested the time and expense necessary to expose the Sunshine Law shortcomings of the Geauga Park Board. While Protect Geauga Parks and Fair Shake have received no effective response to these serious violations of the public trust, we would like to continuously affirm that we are committed to pursuing these issues until the Geauga Park Board re-institutes operational procedures and transparency in accord with the Ohio Sunshine Laws.
The complete letter from Fair Shake Legal Services to the Geauga Park District can be viewed as a PDF file using the link below. It provides an extensive list of violations of the Sunshine Laws and shows a clear pattern of behavior designed to frustrate public involvement, deny access to information about the operation of the Park District and close citizens out of the decision making process.