Letters to the Editor—Chagrin Valley Times, Sept. 8, 2016

Convoluted parks decisions

      With the days of a gorgeous summer slowly winding down, I would very much like to learn how effective the Geauga Park District’s advertising campaign has been? Even more importantly, I would like help in understanding why the leadership of the Geauga Park District felt a campaign advertising our parks outside of Geauga County was even needed or even a priority? This advertising ran on STO and local television stations across Northeast Ohio.

      This was apparently Probate Judge Timothy J. Grendell’s idea and was rubber stamped by his park commissioners at an estimated cost of between $150,000 and $180,000 to Geauga County citizens. I have little doubt that I was not the only person surprised to see these ads between innings of the Indians games. And yes, amongst the bucolic images of our beloved Geauga parks, there was also a photo of our probate judge.

      But this convoluted use and abuse of tax monies by the probate judge and hand-picked commissioners — with a cumulative service to the park board of approximately 24 months — leads me to ask yet another question on behalf of the taxpayer in Geauga County. Why has the “open questions by the public” agenda item of the monthly commissioners meetings been eliminated? Also, why are written requests to parks Director John Oros not answered? Our county park district is the only park district in the state of Ohio’s 56 districts to have no open public question on its agenda. Why is that?

      Last February, Mr. Grendell wrote at length about the concept of fairness, due process and the law. The elimination of the “public comment and questions” from the park board’s meetings runs completely counter to Mr. Grendell’s tutorial to those of us who desire transparency in the governance of our park district.

      It would be apparent that the general overreach of this probate judge has manifested itself in an insurrection of sorts in the Russell and now the Chester park districts too. The “opaque decision-making mindset” of this probate judge demeans the ideas of fairness, due process and the law.

      I applaud Protect Geauga Parks for continuing to shine a light on this sad, opaque leadership of the Geauga parks since the tragic death of Probate Judge Chip Henry in 2011.

Bill Franz, Bainbridge

Better honor than naming

      Many of us citizens attending the recent Geauga Parks Commissioners meeting were astounded to hear Director John Oros read a letter from Judge Tim Grendell which praised longtime park Commissioner Bob McCullough and urged a park-natural area to be named in his honor.

      The judge’s comments seemed particularly strange, since virtually everything he has done in regard to Geauga Park District business has been contrary to my understanding of how Mr. McCullough felt about the purpose of the park district and how the parks should progress into the future.

      Sadly, Mr. McCullough, who is no longer with us, cannot speak for himself, but I speak as one who knew Bob for nearly 40 years and knows how he felt about the threats imposed on the park district during Judge Grendell’s assault.

      When discussing park commissioner replacements with Mr. Grendell in the past, the judge told me he would not have replaced Mr. McCullough as commissioner. Yet two commissioners that I’m sure Bob felt were two of the best ever and doing an excellent job were in essence fired by the judge. Other especially competent commissioners were not reappointed, although they wished to be. In their place, he appointed individuals as commissioners who thought parks should be privatized, starved of funds, used for their own private interests or were just minions with no past interest or knowledge in parks and natural areas, people who would just do the judge’s bidding.

      Let’s look as some of Bob McCullough’s values and interests and compare them with Mr. Grendell’s actions. Bob had a longtime interest in natural history and birds, in particular, and, for many years, coordinated a Geauga County Christmas bird count and breeding-bird census going north from Geauga County to Lake Erie. I know, as I assisted him with these activities a number of times. Mr. Grendell seems to enjoy making fun of people with an interest in birds by flapping his arms like a bird at tea-party meetings.

      Mr. McCullough felt purchasing and protecting natural areas now before they disappear forever was of highest priority for the parks. Mr. Grendell led the way with suggesting park levies be reduced, thus starving future land acquisition. Under his domination, no parkland purchases have been completed. A number of land-acquisition opportunities at little or no cost to the parks were passed up.

      Citizens would never have seen Mr. McCullough use the park newsletter for self promotion or politicization. Yet, during the Judge Grendell era, such use has been pervasive.

      Mr. McCullough surely felt that any hunting or trapping in our parks should be for wildlife management purposes, and alternative management should be used if at all possible. Under the Judge Grendell takeover, hunting and trapping has been viewed as a recreational activity, expanded as such and allowed illegally in the Burton Wetland State Nature Preserve.

      If the good judge really valued Bob McCullough’s half century of work in building our park district, he should have no trouble following his example, and following his example would be a far higher honor than naming a park after him.

      Did he ever ask Mr. McCullough himself about suggestions for park commissioner appointments? Hardly, I would guess. The good judge could ask many fine past commissioners, directors, park employees and others about the direction Bob would have taken our parks. The good judge could talk with McCullough family members and ask them what they thought of the park direction since the new regime takeover. Will he do so? Hardly, I would guess.

John G. Augustine, Parkman

Silence was not ‘golden’

      I would like to respond to the recent article that ran with the headline, “Residents want voices heard at county park district meetings.” The article revealed that some employees of the parks whose positions were eliminated in a reorganization received severance payments for which, in return, they were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

      I was a part-time employee in the administrative services department of the Geauga Park District in September 2014, when the so-called reorganization took place that eliminated the jobs of three highly capable longtime employees. I resigned from my job in protest over the way these people were treated — having been ushered out of the building with no prior notice and not so much as a thank you for their decades of work and dedication.

      I am still sick over what happened two years ago, and seeing it being rehashed in the paper once again is a heartache. The article appeared to imply that the employees did something wrong by receiving a severance package.

      Silence was not “golden.” They did not ask for any of this. The lives and retirement plans of the three women were severely disrupted. They all had exemplary work records and represented the park well. I also would like to point out that the these dismissals smack of age and sex discrimination.

      The dismissals were unfounded and unnecessary, and the experience and skills of these individuals are now in short supply at the Geauga Park District.

Carol Gwirtz, Parkman

Categories: News

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