Newburgh Heights, OH

Council Members of Newburgh Heights Hold Special Meeting to Discuss Mayoral Transition and Council Pro-Tempore

Brown on Cleveland

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Village of Newburgh Heights MarqueeThe Brown Report Newspaper (Photo)

Village of Newburgh Heights, OH. - In a small quaint town of nearly 2,167 residents, the Village of Newburgh Heights sits in the middle of Cuyahoga County. The small city is normally quiet. Due to the recent troubles of the Mayor, the small Village has been in the news frequently. On March 31, 2022, Cleveland.com reported that the current Mayor, Trevor Elkins, was recently found guilty in the court of law for illegally using his campaign funds. According to the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office news release from March 13, 2022, Elkins agreed to step down after entering a plea deal with the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court. It was also reported that part of the plea deal calls for Elkins to refrain from running for office from 2024 to 2028.

As the Village leaders prepare for a mayoral transition, Council members Dunman, Kray, and Giersz called a special meeting on April 11, 2022. The member's agenda included a discussion of council vacancy, discussion of the position of council pro-tempore, the election of council pro-tempore, and discussion of preparation for mayoral transition. "Newburgh Heights council members want to get rid of Councilwoman Traore. I am here in solidarity to ask why. Ms. Traore is the only black councilperson, and she is slated to become the next Mayor of the Village," stated activist Brenda Bickerstaff. "What does the city charter state. I am here to ensure that Council follows the Village City Charter," scoffed Councilwoman Ruth Gray.

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Village of Newburgh Heights City Council MembersThe Brown Report Newspaper (Photo)

Currently, a black woman sits at the council's helm as the council pre-tempore. As per the Ohio revised code, under R.C. 731.10 and R.C. 733.25, when the Mayor is absent from the village or unable, for any cause, to perform his duties, the President Pro Tempore becomes acting Mayor, with the same duties and powers as the mayor. Since one of the mayor's duties is to preside at the meetings of the village legislative authority, R.C. 733.24, it follows that absent a charter provision to the contrary, the president pro tempore acts as the presiding officer when the Mayor is missing from a meeting as per the Ohio Attorney General office. Concerning the city's guidelines, once Mayor Elkins permanently steps down as Mayor, Gigi Traore, the council pro-tempore, becomes Mayor of the Village as stated in the Village's rules.

Before the commencement of the meeting, elected officials from Cuyahoga county filled the council chambers; Couty Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, Senator Nina Turner, Senator Shirley Smith, Councilwoman Candice Williams, Oakwood Village, Councilwoman Dana Anderson, Maple Heights, Council President Ruth Gray, South Euclid, School Board President Nichelle Daniels of Garfield Heights, Councilman Richard Trojanski and Tim Tatum of Maple Heights, Black Lives Matter's Kareem Hinton, Latonya Goldsby, and State Representative Juanita Brent, Political Strategist Jerry Primm and so many others. Audience members held up posters that read #letherstay. "Tell Newburgh Heights Council to keep Gigi Traore."

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Gigi Traore Flyer Village of Newburgh HeightsFlyer Courtesy of Pamela Gray

Once the meeting was called to order by Mayor Elkins, Elkins immediately addressed issues and rumors on social media. "I had nothing to do with the calling of this particular meeting. I want to be clear; I did not ask for tonight's meeting," said Elkins. Councilwoman Traore spoke next as her voice cracked with disappointment as she addressed her council colleagues. "I am hurt. This is hurtful. I am a daughter of an immigrant. I am an activist for myself and others." As she banged the gavel, she stated, "I will be damn if someone comes against me and I don't fight. I am here, and I am here to stay, so get used to me," stated Traore.

The council was excused to an executive session for approximately 45 minutes as guests anxiously awaited in council chambers. Once the meeting resumed, Councilmembers informed the guests that Traore would remain the council pro-tempore of the Village of Newburgh Heights.

According to Mayor Elkins, an official removal date from office is not scheduled.

For now, Mayor Elkins is Mayor of the Village of Newburgh, OH, and according to the town's rules, the council pro-tempore will serve as the acting Mayor once Elkins is removed from office. Because Councilwoman Gigi Traore is the council pro-tempore, she is slated to become the next mayor of Newburgh Heights Village.

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"Brown On Cleveland" features podcast host, licensed social worker, and social justice activist Kimberly F. Brown. Former talk show host with WOVU.95fm. Brown is the Chief Administrator of The Brown Report Newspaper. Brown experience is with investigative reporting.

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