''Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!''
The Trumbull County Health Department has woven one heck of a web in its dealings with the septic issues in this county. As I've discussed in previous columns, they've created a monopoly for off-lot systems. They've also seemed to show favoritism in enforcement of regulations. They've delayed and denied requests for public documents and discontinued public participation in meetings.
When Berry and Deanna Meadows began to uncover the corruption and use social media to expose it, the Health Department tried to intimidate them into shutting up and in the process has created a very tangled and complicated web. Felony charges of theft by deception were brought against Berry Meadows. These charges were eventually dropped. Berry Meadows still absorbed the financial cost of defending himself.
Now, the Health Department has further tangled the web by attempting to take away Mr. Meadows' installer's license. This would shut down his business and take away his livelihood.
Mr. Meadows received a notice in August that he would have a hearing regarding revocation of his installer's license. A big part of their grounds for revocation - and what was focused on in the hearing - is that some of the tanks that Mr. Meadows installed floated out of the ground.
Mr. Meadows is not the only installer who has had this problem though, and he contends that the problem is with the tank itself and not a problem with the installation. He has witnesses including a fellow installer and a professional engineer who would testify to that fact. However, he won't have the opportunity to present any evidence to defend himself - more of that tangled web.
The first day of the hearing was Sept. 28. The health board wanted to have a closed door hearing, but the hearing officer said that it would be open to the public.
During that first day of testimony, Rebecca Fugitt of the Ohio Department of Health testified about the floating septic tanks. She referred to a letter from Stark Aeration of Canton, a distributor of the Enviro-guard system, which is the only system that has had problems with floating tanks. Stark Aeration blamed faulty installation for the problems.
Well, duh! Of course they would say that. Presenting proof from Stark Aeration is like someone's mom testifying in court that her baby didn't do the crime.
The next day of the hearing was Nov. 15. Mrs. Fugitt continued her testimony. She admitted that the only tanks that floated were Enviro-guard. Other witnesses for the board, including the homeowner for whom the board pursued a bond claim regarding the floating tank, also testified. The bond company rejected that claim because it believed that the problem was with the product, not the installation. Overall, the case against Mr. Meadows was not going so well, and he hadn't yet had the opportunity to present his case or his witnesses.
On the morning of Nov. 16, the board had not yet presented all of their witnesses, and Mr. Meadows had not yet had the opportunity to present his defense. Abruptly, the board decided that no more witnesses would be presented, and the attorneys for both sides would only be allowed to present their closing arguments.
Mr. Meadows has not been given due process. The board has stated that a decision will be made in January. Any guesses as to what the decision will be?
The Meadowses are trying to pull the thread until the web is gone.
They filed a federal lawsuit against members of the Board of Health; Dr. James Enyeart, director of the Trumbull County Health Department; Frank Migliozzi, director of environmental health; Sheriff Tom Altiere; sheriff's office employees Maj. Tom Stewart and Sonny Schulyer; county commissioners; and attorney Rob Kokor, who represents the Board.
One issue that has recently come to light is that the elections for the Board of Health for the last several years may have violated Sunshine Laws by using a secret ballot. David Engler, attorney for Berry Meadows, has filed a complaint on behalf of the Meadows and others, which requests among other things that ''the current board members be disbanded.''
Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Logan granted an order that future elections for the board not be done by secret ballot, but has not yet ruled on whether the current board be disbanded. It is crucial that we have a board that will work to seek to be public servants and to solve problems instead of making them worse.
The trustees from the townships, the mayors of the villages, and the mayors of the cities of Cortland and Hubbard elect the members of the Board of Health. They should support people who will be public servants and think long and hard before re-electing anyone on the current board.
We need to yank the threads.
We need to unravel the web.
Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at editorial@