UPDATE: Ron Haun announced June 6 that he will retire as a trustee at the end of the year. Read more on this in the July issue of NEWS On the Green. The following story is from our June edition.
Brookfield Trustee Ron Haun has resigned as chairman of the township board of trustees, but plans to continue as a trustee despite criticism that he’s spending too much time away from the township.
Haun and his wife, Lisa, sold their home on Sharon Hogue Road in December, and Haun has “been back and forth between Ohio and Florida over the past couple months,” he said in a statement he released April 28.
Trustees Mark Ferrara and Dan Suttles said they asked Haun to release the statement to address his status, noting that they have received many questions about Haun’s status, but don’t want to speak for him.
In his statement, Haun said he has spent time in Florida visiting family, including three grandchildren, one of whom was born in March. After selling their house, Ron and Lisa Haun rented a home in the township for a while, but currently “reside” at his parents’ home in Masury when they are in town.
“During this time, I have continued to perform my duties as a trustee,” he said in his statement, “I have and I will continue to be in regular contact with my fellow trustees, fiscal officer and township department heads.”
He also said he is in “frequent communication with township citizens, school personnel, county officials and our township attorney.”
At a May 19 meeting Haun called to address his role as chairman – the one at which he resigned the position – Haun said, “Everybody thinks I haven’t been doing anything. I thought about it. I made a list of all the calls and all the texts and all the emails and everything like that, a whole log of all that.”
But, he said, he’s not going to argue the point.
“No matter what I say or do, there’s gonna be people that are gonna disagree with no matter what I’ve chosen,” he said.
Resident Scott Miller asked, “Does it matter what they think, though, Ron?”
Haun responded, “Yes. Sure. Sure it does. Sure.”
“Because there’s a lot of people think that you should resign,” Miller said.
“I made my statement last month,” Haun said. “I don’t have any further comment on it.”
Resident Judy Radachy picked up the mantle with, “Are you willing to provide proof of residency in Ohio?”
“I have, yes,” Haun said.
“To make it to the public?” Radachy continued.
“I made my statement last month,” Haun said. “I have no further comment.”
“So, that’s a no?” Radachy said.
“I made my statement last month, Judy,” Haun said. “I have no further comment.”
Residence is one of the criteria addressed in Ohio Revised Code Section 503.241, which is titled, “When township offices deemed vacant.”
The code said an office is vacant “Whenever any township officer ceases to reside in the township, or is absent from the township for 90 consecutive days.”
There are two exceptions: illness, when the officer provides a “physician’s certificate” to the trustees; and active military service.
At the May 2 meeting, resident David DeJoy said he believes that Haun has moved out of the township.
“I just feel that, once you move your dogs and your wife to another state, that’s all,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right that he’s receiving a paycheck and health insurance when he’s not here. Let’s call it for what it is. He’s no longer a resident of Brookfield. He’s spending 95 percent plus of his time in Florida.”
In his statement, Haun said he plans to “keep this schedule of traveling.”
“I will continue to perform my public duties whether here at home or away visiting family,” Haun said.
Suttles noted that Haun had not been absent for more than 90 days. Haun had left town Feb. 12, was gone for all of March, and returned in time for the trustees’ April 1 meeting.
“Left the next day,” Suttles said May 2. “He’s been gone since.”
Haun missed meetings on March 1, 7 and 28, April 27 and May 2. Suttles also was absent April 27, a department head meeting at which trustees typically do not take action. That meeting was essentially informational for Ferrara.
Haun did not attend Talk With a Trustee May 7. Suttles created those meetings when he took office in 2018 to bring government closer to the citizens. He publicizes it as an official meeting in case any of the other trustees want to attend. Haun has never attended. Ferrara attended that day, the first one held since he became a trustee.
Haun attended meetings April 1 and 4, May 19 and 23, June 1 and 6 and the township’s Memorial Day observance.
A man at the May 2 meeting asked how many meetings a trustee can miss.
“I believe that it (Ohio Revised Code) states that he really doesn’t have to attend a meeting, by law,” Suttles said.
Although he had looked into the issues legally, Suttles added, “We’re not the policing agent for another elected official.”
He also said that Haun really does not owe him an explanation of how he functions as a trustee.
“Does he owe that to me, as a board member, to tell me everything?” Suttles said.
“He owes it to us,” said resident Judie Yurchisin.
“He owes it as a cohesion of a group,” said former trustee Dion Magestro.
“To Dan’s point, that’s why we asked him to give us a statement, because we can’t speak for him,” Ferrara said.
Haun’s absence has put pressure on Suttles and Ferrara, Suttles said.
“In the absence of a trustee long-term, Mr. Ferrara and I cannot go anywhere; cannot go on a vacation; cannot stay out of town past the meeting, because then we cannot conduct township business,” Suttles said. “That’s when it concerns me as a board member, if it affects the board’s ability to function. There’s a reason why there’s three trustees, because you can conduct business with just two.”
And, he said, it takes two to agree on an issue for it to be approved.
“If we have something that he (Ferrara) and I don’t agree on, it can’t get passed,” Suttles said. “It’s a stalemate. That’s another reason why there’s an uneven number of members on the board.” No such scenarios have arisen since Ferrara joined the board in January. However, Ferrara wanted to make a motion at the May 2 meeting that would allow the road department to use road millings from the upcoming Syme Street paving project on unaccepted roads. Road Supt. Jaime Fredenburg said it takes the approval of all three trustees to allow work on unaccepted roads. Since Haun was not present, the motion could not be made.
At the trustees’ May 23 meeting, Suttles told Haun that he has been reluctant to schedule meetings based on specific topics, such as the township’s roads, when he knew Haun would be absent.
“Some of the reasons that we haven’t had meetings is because, out of fairness, I thought you should be here and you haven’t been here,” Suttles said. “Instead of it being me and Mark, I’d like your input. I was reluctant to set a meeting without you being here.”
“I respect that, I really do, but here’s the thing,” Haun responded. “I don’t think there’s gonna be too many disagreements between the three trustees on the problems that we’re facing. We might disagree with some of the things that (Road Supt.) Jaime (Fredenburg) says, but I would say probably about 98 percent of the time we take your (Fredenburg’s) advice. It’s your job. The brainstorming, Dan, even if I’m not here … if you told me what an issue was, I’d be more than happy to give my input. More than happy. I’m not saying that we break the Sunshine Laws or anything of that nature. But, what I’m saying is, if you want to talk to me, Jaime, and throw something my way, I’m sitting here with two smart guys, honestly. I’m talking about my fellow trustees.”
Although the Ohio General Assembly has granted boards of trustees expanded powers to meet through electronic means, such as Zoom and Facebook Live, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Suttles said he has refused to meet that way now that the pandemic’s impact has lessened.
“I’m not willing to hold the meeting and have Ron, even if he was willing to, communicate from a location other than here as a convenience to him because he’s not in the state,” Suttles said. “It was proposed for COVID. Our COVID numbers have gone down. To use that as an excuse to have an absentee member of the board participate in the meeting, I’m not willing to do that.”
The electronic meeting provision expires June 30, Suttles said.