Maple Heights, OH. - The new year has begun, and the city of Maple Heights is conducting its second council meeting for the new year. Already, residents are bothered by the behavior of several council members. As the council body began to nominate council members for committees, the commotion of the January 19, 2022 meeting began to clash. "I have been coming here to council meetings for one and half years. This council meeting is the most embarrassing meeting I have ever attended. It's a shame of what we see", says Robert Gilet of Maple Heights.
Council President Ron Jackson and Law Director Frank Consolo tried to maintain order. There were too many side conversations and distractions, not from the public but council members. During the meeting, Mayor Annette Blackwell attempted to call council members to order. Blackwell stated, "someone needs to call this meeting to order. Side conversations are inappropriate". Councilmember Stafford Shennett attempted to defend the behavior of some councilmembers as he stated, "this is what happens during our meetings. This just happens to be a public meeting". Mayor Blackwell reiterated to Councilmember Shenett the behavior was inappropriate. The disregard for the meeting was only the beginning.
Every new year, Maple Heights Council members convene with elected committee members to the following committees: Community Life and Health, Public Works and Safety, Finance and Housing, and Economic Development. Maple Heights has seven elected council members and one council president. Each council member oversees a district. According to Maple's Law Director, members choose whether they want to serve on a committee. "The rule says there shall be no less than three members or each committee and no more than three," stated Consolo. As Jackson dedicated council minutes to each committee seeking members, some council members were eager to join committees while others were stalemate. Councilmembers Stafford Shenett, Tangalyn Madden, and Edwina Agee resisted participating in committees. At one point, Jackson had become annoyed. He had to seek recommendations from the Council Protem, Richard Trojanksi, to seek an appointment due to Shennet, Madden, and Agee's unwillingness to participate in committees unless they are serving together. One resident, Shirley Banks, found the council's behavior juvenile. "You guys got to get it together. You all better get it together. You are servants working for the community".
Councilwoman Dana Anderson questioned Jackson's ability to appoint council members committees. "As President, don't you have the power to make them serve committees. What power do you have"? Before Jackson could respond, Consolo informed Anderson that no one could make anyone do anything. "Each council member has a choice. If a council member does not want to participate in a committee, you can't force them. It's a disservice to the community. They won't show up for meetings". All council members joined at least one committee, except for District 7 councilwoman Edwina Agee. When Jackson asked her to reconsider taking part in a committee, Agee responded, "I' m good."
Following the discord of this committee appointment meeting, Council Shenett placed a bottle of Heinz 57 steak sauce on the table. He stated, "I would like to work with the city. I put the steak sauce on the table. Maple Heights has its challenges. However, we have challenges; we are on the move. I've been working with several councilmembers, so we will are building a 157 coalition - bridging the gap by networking". Shennet is referring to himself, Madden and Agee; several councilmembers scoffed and found this gesture to be unfitting. "This use of 157 coalitions is divisive. Council moves as one body, not separate entities. We must work together," says, Trojanski. Anderson added, "being unified is key. We should do our very best to represent our constituents and the city."
Brown on Cleveland reached out to Councilman Shennet of District One and inquired about the relevance of the Heinz 57 sauce usage. We also asked if this prop was appropriate behavior for a council member during a council meeting. Shenett did not respond.
Maple Heights city council is a governing body. They're the legislative branch as well as the policy-making body. The council also looks to the city's master plan, significant projects, and infrastructure improvements ranging from community growth to land use to finances and strategic planning.