signed by President Pro Tem Ryan
VIDEO POST: DORDEA MOTION OF CENSURE
VIDEO POST: RYAN BLAST OF OKEY
OKEY LETTER EXPLAINING HIS REASONS FOR NOT SIGNING ALLIANCE ORDINANCE 21-15
OF FIRST CENSURE:
OKEY GETS CENSURED AGAIN
Ryan Blasts Okey
Motion to Censure Okey
First, Alliance City Council president Steve Okey's version:
From: Steve Okey
Date: June 25, 2015 3:06:49 PM EDT
To: "Vanessia A. Freeman"
Subject: RE: Special Meeting Dates
As I stated in my email on Monday, June 22, I previously scheduled a possible meeting out of town on a client’s case for today. I have received confirmation that the meeting will go forward today at 5:30 p.m. This work obligation in Carroll County will prevent me from returning back to Alliance in time for the special meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. I therefore request that Ms. Ryan preside at tonight’s meeting as President Pro Tem.
President, Alliance City Council
Minutes ago, The StarK County Political Report received a copy of what the source indicates is a letter to the editor type correspondence generated by Okey, to wit:
Date: June 25, 2015 8:12:46 PM EDT
Subject: okey's letter
Dear Citizens of Alliance,
So what’s the big deal about a signature?
As you know, signatures can mean a lot. With our signatures, we bind ourselves to buy a car, take out a loan, pay money by check, get a driver’s license, pay by credit card, and the list goes on and on.
As President of City Council, my signature on an ordinance is one of the steps an ordinance takes to become law.
That’s exactly why I was concerned about putting my signature on Ord. 21-15 after it was adopted by City Council by a 4-2 vote on June 15. In my analysis, Ord. 21-15 violates the Constitution. Not just in one way, but in many ways.
Ord. 21-15 is dangerous and unconstitutional.
Every citizen should be alarmed by its adoption in our city. And every voter should make the officials who are responsible for this unconstitutional ordinance accountable.
As President of City Council, I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ohio according to the best of my ability and understanding. And 28 years ago, I took an oath as an attorney to protect and defend the Constitution.
The Constitution is not just a dusty old piece of parchment kept behind glass at the National Archives. The Constitution is a living document that serves as the fabric of our system of government. The Constitution puts limits on government power, just like the boundary lines on a playing field. But the Constitution can’t protect itself. It’s up to each of us to take a stand when we see some action by the government that violates the Constitution.
Ord. 21-15 has a lot of constitutional problems. It gives the Chief of Police unprecedented power to impose fines on any law abiding property owner simply because someone claims that there was criminal activity on the property.
Ord. 21-15 violates the Constitution and the rights of law abiding property owners in at least three important ways.
First, the Chief of Police can simply announce that there have been “criminal nuisance activities” on a property and then impose fines. The Chief of Police does not have to first get a conviction, or go to court, or even charge anyone with a crime. Under our Constitution, the government cannot impose fines arising out of alleged criminal activity without a ruling by a court that a crime actually occurred.
But not anymore.
Ord. 21-15 now allows a law abiding property owner to be fined hundreds or even thousands of dollars by the police, without a court ever being involved. There is a thing called “due process” in our country. Ord. 21-15 ignores this constitutional requirement.
Second, the fines are imposed by order of the Chief of Police, not by a court.
In the United States, we have separation of powers between the legislature, the courts and the police. Ord. 21-15 is unconstitutional because it hands over the court’s power (finding that crimes occurred and imposing fines) to the police.
Third, the ordinance does not provide a property owner with the opportunity to be heard before fines are imposed by the Chief of Police. The property owner can only ask the Chief to reconsider the fines, but that is after a decision was already made by the Chief of Police. Constitutional due process requires notice and an opportunity to be heard before a fine is imposed.
By the way, don’t be fooled by myths that the supporters of Ord. 21-15 have created in order to hide the truth about this dangerous ordinance.
One myth is that no one can be fined unless somebody did something wrong. That’s false! The truth is that Ord. 21-15 empowers the police to impose fines upon law abiding property owners who are completely innocent and have done nothing wrong!
Another myth is that the fines imposed by the police are actually “fees.” This is a false description. Even Council members Jakmides and Dordea used the word “fines” during a committee meeting about Ord. 21-15.
And the biggest myth is that Ord. 21-15 applies only to landlords. This is false. The ordinance specifically applies to every “residential dwelling unit.” This includes homes owned by the occupant as well as homes owned by a landlord.
This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. There are enough constitutional violations in Ord. 21-15 to alarm everyone.
Some citizens are concerned about the intrusive reach of government into our lives and are wary about the government controlling the use of our private property. How is Ord. 21-15 consistent with limited government and checks on government power?
Other citizens are concerned about individual rights. How is Ord. 21-15 fair, when the police can impose fines on law abiding citizens without any court hearing?
No due process. Police imposing fines on law abiding citizens. Ord. 21-15 turns the police into the judge and jury.
I would never suggest that the current law director, who helped to craft Ord. 21-15, or the four members of Council who voted for it, are bad people.
And I will not participate in name calling or other distasteful attacks on them. However, our Constitution tells us that their judgment on Ord. 21-15 is flawed and mistaken.
Recognizing that Ord. 21-15 violates the Constitution, I was justified in hesitating before putting my signature on it. I carefully read the law that requires the President of City Council to authenticate an ordinance by signing it. After careful consideration, I was able to sign and authenticate the ordinance because I stated in writing that I did not give my personal approval to an unconstitutional action by City Council.
Council member Jakmides has alleged that I am taking this action for my “own political gain.” She is quite mistaken. My principled stand against Ord. 21-15 might gain me some votes, and it might lose me some votes. That’s not what matters. The only thing that matters is that I uphold the oath I took to support the Constitution — an oath I proudly took.
If you are concerned about Ord. 21-15, then you should contact your Council members and tell them to repeal this dangerous ordinance.
Please join me in fighting to protect our Constitution.
President, Alliance City Council
Do you think - maaaaybee - there are a few skeptical folks on Alliance City Council who think - maaaaybee - that Steve Okey made a point of not being available for last night's "special" meeting to deal with Okey's refusal to sign a piece of legislation passed at council's last regular meeting held on June 15th?
On the following Tuesday, the SCPR ran this blog:
To fully appreciate today's blog, readers should go and refresh themselves on Tuesday's blog (LINK).
As a shorthand refresher for those readers who do not have the time to go back to the June 16 SCPR blog, here goes:
Sorry to say, The Report does not buy Okey's claimed dedication to the legislation's constitutionality.
Nor did The Report buy into Okey's claim that he filed litigation against Alliance City Council (he was not president of council at the time) for alleged Ohio Sunshine Law violations for a process that he himself engaged in when he was on council before not seeking re-election so he could take on a losing effort to become mayor of Alliance in November, 2011.
It is interesting to note that Okey seized the initiative to contact the SCPR when he filed his Sunshine Law lawsuit with a "heads up" saying he knew that yours truly deeply cares about "the rule of law."
And, of course, he is correct.
What the SCPR is not for is folks like The Report thinks he is to use principles of law as a smokescreen for political manipulation.
That is what yours truly thinks the Sunshine Law initiative was all about. To boot, that is what the SCPR thinks the constitutionality thing is all about.
Note on his e-mail that he did copy media; just not The Stark County Political Report.
For he certainly knows that The Report would have engaged him in a back and forth email exchange wanting to learn much, much more about his claim conflict in timeframe.
The SCPR's experience with Okey is much like that with some Stark County Democratic Party insider friends who think they are smarter than everybody else and manipulate or in some instances coerce others into doing their will.
It was a real "slap in the face" for him to ask that Sue Ryan to serve as President Pro Tem at last night's meeting.
Nevertheless, Ryan, the gracious public official she is, endured the indignity and ran last night's meeting for the most part anyway.
The decision is not his in the first place.
Who serves as president pro tem is by vote of the voting members of council which Okey is not unless there is a tie.
She did step down momentarily to administer a verbal blast at Okey (see video clip below).
Moreover, she was the key vote in, as the only Democrat, to join Republicans Dordea, Jakmides and Rhone to reconsider "the constitutionally offensive to Okey" ordinance which he refused to sign to pass it once again in a 4 to 3 vote which, of course, given Okey's absence needed only to be signed by herself and President Pro Tem.
Long time Okey foe Ward 3 councilman Larry Dordea teed off on Okey several times during the "special" meeting and finished of in a flourish in moving to censure the council president for "defacing" the originally passed Ordinance 21-15 pretty much on the anniversary date on his censure a year ago over a flap Okey created on Alliance council's voting procedures.
Okey did get some support last night from Councilpersons Cherry, King and Kline.
The Report knew at the time that it would only be a matter of time before Okey stirred the political pot in Alliance (see the linked blog above). He did not disappoint.
It appears he is at it again with the constitutionality thing on Alliance Ordinance 21-15.
While presumably it is likely true that Okey actually did have a conflict making it impossible for him to be at last night's meeting, The Report has to believe that alternative arrangements could have been made at his initiative so that he could to go face-to-face with his detractors' allegation that this refusal to sign was just so much politics.
Here is what Councilperson Ryan had to say to the SCPR in a recent e-mail:
Sue Ryan Jun 16
I just read your blog from this morning. First, thank you for the kind words. You have always been encouraging (although you correctly believe I am politically naive).
Again, you were spot on in your analysis of the latest shenanigans of Mr. Okey. He is pandering, as usual, playing the race card, and doing anything he can to try to discredit the law director and embarrass council members.
Following is a copy of a letter to the editor I sent to the Alliance Review.
Keep telling it like it is!
[letter to the Alliance Review]And she added these remarks in last night's meeting:
The current City Council members are not lawyers; we are everyday citizens who are doing our best for the citizens and city of Alliance. We count on the law director and other well-versed people to advise us throughout the legislative process. In the weeks since Ordinance 21-15 was introduced, numerous meetings and discussions were held. The questions and concerns that were raised were addressed and answered to the satisfaction of the majority of those present at the meetings. If the President of Council, or anyone else, had questions as to the constitutionality of this ordinance, it would have been preferable to let those concerns be known at that time rather than allowing Council to vote on what he perceives to be an unconstitutional ordinance.
Mr. Okey states that he has modeled his actions on those of his predecessor. I could not disagree more. While Mr. Benincasa never told any of us how to vote, he made sure we knew where he stood. If he had doubts about an ordinance, he would have discussed these with us individually, as a respected colleague, not in a passive-aggressive, meaningless gesture.
How convenient that Okey did not have to account to his critics such as Councilwoman Ryan.
That he opted out (chickened out?) of the confrontation without having worked out an alternative is confirmation to the SCPR's belief that Okey is primarily in his government capacity a political manipulator who cherry picks and avoids according to his political interests.
His November opponent former well respected Alliance City Schools superintendent Arthur Garnes - while not taking anything for granted - has to be immensely pleased that Okey has taken to political grandstanding.
Okey's actions of late seem to smack of political desperation.
Its looking more and more like Okey will once again be on the outside looking in come January 1, 2016.
Here is the complete video of last night's proceedings including pauses while council clerk Garard Yost worked feverishly to repair a troublesome council recording system.