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East Palestine man threatens lawsuit over 2010 incident

November 17, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - A man placed on probation last year for disrupting a village council meeting in 2010 told Mayor Margo Zuch and council Monday night he was going to sue East Palestine.

Long-time resident Barry Walker approached Zuch during the council meeting and asked her to listen as he moved his jaw up and down so she could hear a clicking sound.

"Do you hear that?" he said.

"Yes," she responded.

He then argued it was a result of injuries he sustained when he was escorted out of the building by police in 2010.

Pointing to the entryway, he said, "That happened in that door that night."

According to court documents from the Sept. 13, 2010 incident, Walker was escorted from the building by now-retired police Chief Clyde Hoffmeister and other officers.

Prior to his removal, Walker had criticized the village safety forces for not responding properly to an incident at village park in which a referee fell and was knocked unconscious during an athletic event.

Then-mayor Sonny Hull had advised him to take the matter up with Hoffmeister privately, at which point Walker referred to Hoffmeister in a derogatory manner.

Hull had asked Walker to leave the meeting, and he refused, even after Hoffmeister and other officers stood to escort him out the door. The former chief then pushed him out the door, where he continued to wrestle against him and the other officers. He was taken to the county jail and later charged with disrupting a lawful meeting and resisting arrest. The second charge was dropped, however, as part of a plea deal, which resulted in his one-year probation term.

On Monday night, Walker wasn't apologetic of the way in which he referred to the former chief, or how he acted the night he was removed from the meeting.

"For what you did that night you're going to suffer more embarrassment," he said.

As he was speaking, Councilman Alan Cohen interrupted to say he believed the matter should be addressed privately and then questioned what business it had to do with council.

"My business before council is to straighten out council," Walker said, to which Cohen replied, "We don't need straightened out," and then reminded Walker that his allotted three minutes to speak was up.

Village Solicitor Shirley Smith also told Walker that he needed to follow the agenda.

Walker said he was following the agenda and then announced he was going to bring a $250,000 lawsuit against the village.

He then walked out of the building stating several times, "See you in court."

He was listed on the agenda to speak before council about "history, citizenship and patriotism."

In other business, council and residents heard from Terry Leach of American Municipal Power, about the two opt-out aggregation programs previously approved by voters.

The natural gas aggregation program's contract is set to expire Dec. 31 and Leach is working with village administration and natural gas suppliers to renegotiate the rate.

Natural gas is currently supplied by Direct Energy through the program and residents pay $4.01 Mcf. Residents are automatically enrolled unless they opt-out.

Leach said the natural gas aggregation program is "no risk" for participants and that it guarantees "price certainty."

Although he stressed the program's rates aren't always lower than other suppliers, they don't fluctuate like others do.

He also said that under the program participants will be charged $4.17 Mcf for November through December.

"That is very competitive," he said, adding that other suppliers are currently charging about $5.25 to $6.00 Mcf.

There are currently 554 of the roughly 1,900 residents in the village participating in the program, he added.

The village's opt-out electric program through FirstEnergy extends through 2018 and participants receive 6 percent off the price to compare.

Leach said the electric aggregate is a "whole different ball game."

"I can save you money. I can guarantee you savings from the rates that you pay with Ohio Edison," he said.

He said savings translate to roughly $25 or $30 a year for residents and that about 1,600 residents are currently enrolled in the program.

Council then passed first reading of the 2013 appropriations in the amount of $4,750,980, and a resolution dedicating Claybrook Drive as a public street.

The Claybrook Condominium Association has completed Phase One of the construction of Claybrook Drive and wished to dedicate it as a public street, which would place it under the responsibility of the village.

The association has agreed to pay the costs of pavement/crack fill necessary for the initial access from Brookdale Avenue to the development, however.

A finance committee meeting was set for 6:15 p.m. before the next council meeting Nov. 26.



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