Mayor Gardner’s Bullying Continues; Councilwoman Fellows Calls for End to Bullying Only to Be Threatened with Removal Again

I am disgusted that Mayor Andy Gardner has failed to keep his campaign promise to work together and is instead allowing the bullying in city hall to continue … I ask Mayor Gardner to stop this nonsense once and for all and keep his campaign promise to work together. He’s responsible for this—the buck stops with him.

~ Councilwoman Nancy Fellows, June 11, 2020

WILLOUGHBY HILLS – On June 8, 2020, Willoughby Hills Councilwoman-at-Large Nancy Fellows—the longest serving elected official in the City and notable as the first Council President of a female-majority council in Lake County history—introduced a resolution against bullying and racism and asked her City Hall colleagues to work harder at working together. Fellows introduced this legislation partly in response to the 2020 resignations of two of the seven members of the Willoughby Hills Council who cited bullying and fear for their personal safety in their resignation letters.

“No one should go to work and feel threatened and in fear of their life,” Fiebig said in his January 27, 2020, resignation letter.

“Truthfully, the venom and nastiness in City Hall literally makes me cry,” Majka said about her reasons for resigning in a May 30, 2020, News-Herald article.

Days after Majka resigned alleging Gardner and his supporters bullied and harassed her and Fellow’s prepared a resolution denouncing bullying, five of Mayor Andy Gardner’s supporters filed a lawsuit in Lake County Probate Court to remove Councilwoman Fellows from office. These same people—Tony Miller, Vicki Miller, Jeffrey Fruscella, Steve Crone and Jack Hay—unsuccessfully attempted to remove Fellows from office in 2019, shortly after Gardner announced his campaign to run against Fellows for Mayor, by filing a similar claim, which was dismissed in court and ultimately deemed frivolous by the City’s Law Director.

“I am disgusted that Mayor Andy Gardner has failed to keep his campaign promise to work together and is instead allowing the bullying in city hall to continue,” said Councilwoman Nancy Fellows. “We expect our children not to bully, so it’s particularly disturbing to see adults bullying others, especially adults who are supposed to be leaders in our community. Anyone who steps up to serve their neighbors should not have to fear for their safety for doing their job like Dave Fiebig, Jan Majka and I have. I understand why Dave and Jan resigned, but I’m not going anywhere. For almost 20 years, the residents of Willoughby Hills have trusted me to speak up for them and if I let Mayor Gardner and his supporters bully me too, who will be left to speak for the people of Willoughby Hills? I ask Mayor Gardner to stop this nonsense once and for all and keep his campaign promise to work together. He’s responsible for this—the buck stops with him.”

The hearing on the case is set for Monday June 15, 2020, in Lake County Probate Court.anger-2728273_1920

WH Stuck with Higher Garbage Fees for 5 Years, More Fee Hikes Guaranteed

There is no opting out of Mayor Andy Gardner’s controversial garbage fee hike which locks in residents for the next five years and guarantees residents rates will climb again. Gardner’s executive administrative assistant Gloria Majeski told the News Herald, “everybody is going to pay for it.”

Majeski justified the rate hike by explaining that the City spent almost $20,000 to operate the brush drop-off last year. Councilwomen Nancy Fellows and Janet Majka introduced a proposal for the City to allocate the funds that were used for the brush drop-off to offset the increased cost to residents. Mayor Gardner dismissed Fellows’ and Majka’s proposal, instead choosing to offload the expense to the residents.  Gardner has yet to explain how the money saved by closing the brush drop-off will be reallocated.  Gardner’s 2020 budget increased City spending by almost $1,000,000 over 2019 before closing the brush-drop off, and there have been no proposals for other increases in resident services resulting from the increased spending.

The new garbage contract runs through 2025 and guarantees additional rate increases to begin in 2023. bolt-1751089_1920

Mayor Andy Gardner Denies Bullying Councilwoman. Meanwhile, His Executive Assistant Threatens Public Records Requester

5d77b4a490f1e.imageAt last Thursday’s Council meeting, Mayor Andy Gardner concluded his Mayor’s Report by denying bullying and wrong-doing, apparently in response to the resignation letter of outgoing Councilwoman Janet Majka. On the day before the Council meeting, Majka released her resignation letter which stated:

“Truthfully, the venom and nastiness in City Hall literally made me cry many times. I had hoped things would change with a new Mayor, because Mayor Andy Gardner and his ticket campaigned with the promise of ‘working together.’ Unfortunately, Mayor Gardner has continued his predecessor’s tradition of demeaning and threatening any Council Member who dares to disagree with him.”

Gardner told the audience to listen to tapes of prior Council meetings to judge for themselves whether he acted inappropriately.

On the heels of Gardner’s denial, Lake County politics website Lobbyists for Citizens reported on Saturday that a Willoughby Hills city employee, Gardner’s executive administrative assistant Gloria Majeski, threatened a public records requester.  Majeski’s duties include handling public records and state law protects the rights of citizens to make public records requests. According to Brian Massie of Lobbyists for Citizens, Massie was threatened by city employee Majeski on social media after asking for public information.  The Lobbyists for Citizens report includes Majeski’s Facebook post which says:

“Saw the public records request to yet attack me one more time. Lost no sleep. This time, however, someone will be spending their own money to defend themselves and not the City of WH. My salary and benefits are public record, approved by Council, or their lack to do their job. I certainly earn my pay and benefits and am glad the union exists so bad Council people don’t intimidate, harrass, bully or belittle hard-working public servants. The City has moved to a positive direction. Stop the negativity or be prepared to pay damages!”

It is unclear if Mayor Gardner’s administrative policy permits employees to threaten those who exercise their right to request public records.  Willoughby Hills has never had an employee policy manual and efforts last year to require the administration to professionally draft a employee policy manual for city employees were unsuccessful.

WHFD Helps Eddy’s Bike Shop After Broken Fire Sprinkler Floods Store

101526695_3226500047394990_5164605818758234112_nOver Memorial Day weekend, the Willoughby Hills Fire Department responded to an alarm at Eddy’s Bike Shop on Bishop Road. The alarm turned out to be the shop’s sprinkler system which broke and ended up flooding one to two inches of water through the entire store. Crews removed the water and Eddy’s Bike Shop was able to open the next day.
As the Willoughby Hills Fire Department said on its Facebook page, they certainly are dedicated to helping residents and businesses in a time of need.

No YMCA Dream House in 2020, but You Can Still Win a Car

IMG_5252Last year the Lake County YMCA raffled off a beautiful Willoughby Hills home, but this year will be the first in almost three decades with no chance to win a YMCA Dream House. Thanks to the coronavirus, the Y has decided that it was in the best interest of its staff, volunteers and the public to take 2020 off.

However, if you’ll settle for a 2020 Chevy Blazer worth $39,000, tickets for the Y’s car raffle are on sale now through July 5, 2020.  Semi-finalists will be chosen the week of July 8 and the winner on July 12.  Tickets are $10 for one, $25 for three, $50 for seven, $100 for 15 or $200 for 40.  You can find more information and purchase tickets here: https://shop.lakecountyymca.org/rules.php.

Mayor Andy Gardner Admits He’s “Old Friends” With Dumper, Accepted Thousands in Campaign Contributions

52AF7821-806A-4B25-BA0C-77DFC7D323D8As residents continue to be outraged by the commercial dump being operated on residential property on Chardon Road, Mayor Andy Gardner admitted the dumper, Mark Belich, is an “old friend.”  The admission came at the Willoughby Hills PCABR meeting last week.  Additionally, Lake County news site Lobbyists for Citizens reports that Gardner and his slate of candidates and political action committee received over $6,000 in campaign contributions from Belich’s father-in-law shortly before the dumping started.  You can read the full report and review the campaign finance returns here: https://lobbyistsforcitizens.com/2020/01/12/a-willoughby-hills-good-ol-boys-mystery/

Council Approves Mayor Gardner’s Garbage Fee Increase

garbage-413757_1280At last night’s council meeting Council voted to raise resident garbage fees as proposed by Mayor Andy Gardner by a vote of 5-2.  Chris Hallum, Michael Kline, Joe Jarmuszkiewicz, Tanya Taylor Draper, and Dan Knecht all supported the fee increase, while Nancy Fellows and Janet Majka voted no.

Fellows and Majka requested the Mayor use city funds to pay for the increase, about $35,000.  Fellows said that residents are already burdened by recent tax increases and decreases in city services, and many are suffering the economic hardship due to coronavirus. City funds were used to operate the brush drop-off that Mayor Gardner closed and no announcement has been made how the funds used for the closed facility will be used in the future.

Mayor Gardner, whose 2020 budget increased city spending by almost a million dollars over the previous year and plans to put another property tax levy on the ballot in November, did not approve of using city funds to offset the increase to residents.

This latest increase in garbage rates is the third increase in rates in less than a year.

Garbage Fee Increase Back on WH Council Agenda

D0B4B418-7B3F-4B4A-996E-EF7BB396D335While other cities are assisting residents and businesses handle quarantines, shutdowns and job losses, some on Willoughby Hills Council want to raise fees on residents and discontinue popular services. Last time Council considered Mayor Gardner’s proposal to raise resident garbage fees, Councilwoman Janet Majka motioned to table the proposal. However, Council President Chris Hallum put Gardner’s fee increase back on the agenda for tonight’s council meeting.

The proposal would increase monthly garbage collection fees for the second time in less than a year. The city’s garbage fees went up in 2019 when Republic claimed recycling costs required a price increase under its contract with the city. The proposed increase of approximately $28 per year, comes with the additional service of collection of yard waste bags.

Previously, Republic picked up yard waste that fit in garbage cans.  For larger loads of yard waste, residents could drop off their yard waste for free at a site near the Community Center, before the mayor abruptly closed the drop-off in 2018 citing EPA concerns. The brush drop-off was rehabilitated and reopened in 2019 using a free permit system.

The meeting will be held remotely tonight at 7:00 p.m. Information on how to log on and participate in the discussion are available on the city’s website here.

WH Taxpayers Pay Thousands for Building So City Officials and Friends Can Run Businesses, Play Pool and Poker

keep-out-4845935_1280Willoughby Hills taxpayers became owners of the Maple Grove Grange in 2008. City records show the taxpayers have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for maintenance of the building and things like cable t.v. service and pool table delivery in that time.  Yet, the taxpayers have never benefitted from their ownership and their investment.

Who has? Civil Service Commissioner, Tom Majeski, was the “curator” of the Grange and he had the keys since 2008. He had the authority to decide who could use the building and what they could do there. Under Majeski’s watch, the taxpayer-funded building housed big screen t.v.’s, foosball, a poker table and chips and a pool table only available to Majeski and his friends.

Who are these friends? People like Rick Thompson, who in 2017 was running a HAM Radio club out of it and also his doomsday prepper business. Additionally, Majeski, a scout leader held his troop’s meetings and other non-Willoughby Hills scout troops to use it. However, there was no application process for other groups or Willoughby Hills taxpayers to ever receive an iota of benefit from the Maple Grove Grange that they paid for.

In 2017, the City Council finally put a stop to Majeski’s playhouse after he said on the public record that young girl scouts were using poker chips to count their badges among other ridiculous excuses. What does the new administration want to do with the Grange? Looking at the latest Council agenda, it looks like they want to give it back to Majeski.

Council confirms law director and other attorneys, set to cost taxpayers over $157,000 in 2020

269C4711-AF96-46F3-B87F-645EF5A63774Late last month, Willoughby Hills Mayor Gardner introduced the city’s 2020 proposed budget.  He also nominated a candidate for law director, Michael Lucas of the Willoughby law firm Wiles and Richards.  With the nomination, Gardner included a proposal to hire multiple assistant law directors, including former law director, Tom Lobe who resigned in 2017, to serve with Lucas.  According to Gardner’s proposed budget, 2020 fees for the city’s lawyers are expected to cost taxpayers over $157,000.

At a Special Meeting on Friday, February 21, Council confirmed Lucas and adopted the proposal for the assistant law directors by a vote of five to one, with Councilwoman Janet Majka the dissenting vote. Councilwoman Nancy Fellows was not able to attend the Friday night special meeting, but shared her concerns about the contract at a previous special meeting held on February 18. While Fellows, who has served on Council for 18 years, said she supported the nomination of Lucas, she could not support the contract with Lobe that alone would cost the city over $25,000 per year. Additionally, Fellows, echoing residents’ concerns expressed during public portion, cited the fact that Lobe previously sued the city and often engaged in unprofessional conduct among other reasons for why she recommended that the contracts for Lucas and Lobe be considered separately.

New Council Members Michael Kline and Tanya Taylor Draper voiced their support of Lobe at the Friday meeting.

Michael Lucas was sworn in as the new law director at the regular council meeting on February 27. Council has until the end of March to consider the Mayor’s proposed budget, which can be found here.