GREEN Councilman At-Large Stephen Dyer proposed five pieces of legislation during his final meeting as a city councilman.
Dyer, who was seeking re-election, finished fourth in the November election for three at-large council seats. His proposed legislation varied from a taxpayer income tax rebate program to limiting campaign contributions to closing a ballfield near the NEXUS Pipeline.
During the Dec. 10 council meeting, all of Dyer’s legislation was on second reading because he claims Council President Bob Young refused to put the legislation on the agenda when he first introduced it. Young said the legislation was sent in too late and didn’t make the Nov. 12 agenda. Had Dyer’s legislation made the Nov. 12 agenda, it would have been on third reading, which is when legislation is typically voted on.
Dyer submitted the legislation after finding out he lost the election late that night and said he didn’t believe it was too late to make the agenda, adding that the administration routinley submits late legislation that makes it onto the agenda.
None of Dyer’s legislation was approved as he withdrew several pieces, while several others remained on the agenda for the new council in January to address.
One of the pieces withdrawn – which wasn’t discussed – was directing the city to file trademark protection for the intellectual property, including all protectable city-generated marks.
At times, the meeting grew intense with Dyer becoming frustrated and going back and forth with Councilman Chris Humphrey on issues. Humphrey and Dyer have differed on many issues and have often debated at length on certain issues.
Mayor Gerard Neugebauer also expressed his frustration with Dyer’s proposals at several points during the meeting, saying the proposals were an attack on the city and the administration. Neugebauer added that he wished Dyer wouldn't have taken the city “down that road” during the final meeting.
Neugebauer also said it was up to Dyer how he wanted to handle his legislation.
Taxpayer rebate program
Dyer proposed all unencumbered income tax money more than $3 million, plus the cost of administering the program to be rebated.
He said in 2017 the city had about $7.6 million as the unencumbered balance. Under his program, Dyer said $4.5 million would have been returned to income taxpaying residents.
Dyer doesn’t believe the city is offering its residents enough services considering the city’s financial state. He said residents approved to change the income tax from 1 percent to 2 percent to help pay for more services.
“If we’re essentially not going to spend that increase on services, we should pay back residents at least some of that money given how generous they were to tax themselves at double their rates,” Dyer said.
Following Dyer’s presentation on the program, Neugebauer asked Dyer if he was serious about the program.
Dyer said yes.
Young, who commented the idea sounded like an idea his fourth-grade daughter would come home from school with, said he doesn't see how it would work.
Humphrey called the idea not a responsible proposal and said it has no chance of success, adding the proposal came from the same person who supported an 89 percent pay increase and to create a city-sponsored scholarship program.
Councilman Matthew Shaughnessy called Humphrey’ comments as an attack Dyer, saying he needed to stop. Humphrey said it was an attack on the proposal, not Dyer.
Humphrey said the plan proposed by Dyer would benefit those that don’t live in Green but work in Green at the expense of the Green taxpayers.
Dyer said the city needs to invest more to offer things like a leaf removal program and high-speed internet.
Humphrey said the city’s budget is evidence of how much the city is investing each year in the city.
Council took its time on the taxpayer rebate program and it will be on third reading at the Jan. 14 meeting.
Closing Greensburg field No. 4
Dyer also proposed closing field No. 4 at Greensburg Park, one he believes the city should have closed once the NEXUS pipeline was installed. The legislation also stated no new fields to be constructed in the potential impact radius.
City Council recently debated closing the field when legislation was proposed to replace fences at several fields at Greensburg Park. At the time, Dyer wanted to not install a new fence at field No. 4, but council approved for new fences at all the fields.
Dyer said the city needs to follow through on closing the field like it originally said.
The Sports Impact Advisory Committee voted earlier this year to keep the field open, but children are not required to play on the field if their parents do not want them to.
Humphrey said this is a ballfield sports teams in the city want to utilize and said Dyer’s proposal wasn’t serious and that he is misusing his platform.
Dyer stressed the mayor promised to close the field.
Neugebauer said Feb. 6, 2018, that he proposed field No. 4 be removed from service and money would be used to from the NEXUS settlement to replace the field.
The city did construct a new ballfield at the former Kleckner School site using funds from the settlement.
Councilman Justin Speight said there was lots of talk about closing the field and wonders why that promise was never kept.
“I’m not a fan of where that field is,” Speight said.
Following the discussion, Dyer withdrew the legislation.
Comity among council
Dyer proposed a council rule change that members of council can’t accuse other members of committing crimes unless charged by an appropriate agency.
The issue arose after a sign was placed on Young’s property on Massillon Road near Steese Road which stated "Can you guess my name? Hint: I voted myself an 89 percent council pay raise." As the bottom of the sign letters were revealed daily which said, Steve Dyer. There was also a skeleton placed by the sign with a briefcase with money pouring out.
Dyer was outraged by the sign and said he did not vote himself an 89 percent pay increase. The legislation regarding the pay increase was approved by council 4-3 in 2016 and Dyer did vote for it. However, the pay raises would not have been put into place for any of the council members during that term.
Neugebauer, not long after the vote in 2016, vetoed the legislation.
Dyer said at that time he didn’t even know if he would run for re-election. Had the mayor not vetoed the legislation and Dyer won re-election this year, he would have received the pay raise next year.
The sign also drew heavy criticism from the neighboring property Anthony Funeral Home, which many thought it put the sign up. The funeral home reached out to Young, who after multiple times being contacted took the sign down.
Councilman Rocco Yeargin said the sign was inappropriate and doesn't reflect what City Council is about.
Dyer believes Young accused him of a crime.
Dyer stated the Ohio Revised Code states council cannot vote themselves a pay raise. Interim Law Director Bill Chris, however, said the Ohio Revised Code states that it is not a criminal offense.
Yeargin said he appreciates the concept but believes it doesn’t go far enough. He mentioned many attacks that have taken place on Facebook.
Councilwoman Barbara Babbitt also raised concerns about Facebook and said she has been attacked and called names on it several times. She also said she thought Dyer was an administrator on the Hold the Line Facebook Page.
Dyer said he is not an administrator on that page.
Council voted on the rule change and it was defeated 3-4 with Dyer, Speight and Shaughnessy voting for the legislation.
Campaign contribution limits
Dyer also proposed putting a cap on campaign contributions for anyone doing business with the city to limit it to $250 in contributions to mayors, city council members or law director per election.
In the recent election, Neugebauer raised $60,430 and Shaughnessy raised $3,038.
Dyer said more than 60 percent of the money raised at the mayor's golf outing fundraiser was from people living outside the city. He questions why those outside the city should influence the election in the city.
Some of the companies which donated to Neugebauer and have done business with the city are Burgess & Niple, Environmental Design Group and Rodrick, Linton & Belfance.
The Campaign Finance Report for Neugebauer shows Chris, who works for Rodrick, Linton & Belfance, gave $600 at the golf outing and also picked up a $944 fundraiser bill for Neugebauer.
Humphrey questioned if the proposal is constitutional. He said City Council votes on contracts and believes that provides some checks and balances.
Yeargin said he would like to see the issue researched further, while Babbitt said some campaign finance limits would be good.
Council also took time on this issue and it will be on third reading at the next meeting.