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Liberty feud flowering between trustees, group

LIBERTY– The Liberty in Bloom volunteer organization demands answers as to whether their organization will be uprooted.

A letter was sent to trustees in November that not only outlined what the organization does for the township, but also demanded an answer to whether trustees want to continue the relationship.

“In case there is a difference of opinion between Liberty in Bloom volunteers and the Board of Trustees we will request that the conflict go to the voters of the community to resolve the difference with a vote. … We look forward to your response in January after Trustee (Devon) Stanley takes office to have a special evening meeting with the volunteers to assure the widest participation,” the letter stated.

Liberty in Bloom is a nonprofit, volunteer organization whose purpose is to beautify the community. It was established in 2001. Township trustees approved a resolution in May 2013 sponsoring the Liberty in Bloom Improvement Project by creating a financial account for the organization with the understanding that the money donated actually is donated to the township and given to the Liberty in Bloom fund.

The Liberty in Bloom fund has $958 in it, which Sherri Clayman, a volunteer with Liberty in Bloom, said will be enough to plant this upcoming year.

“This money was donated by residents and businesses who have enjoyed our beautification efforts over the years. The question we would like to answer tonight is whether or not you wish to continue assisting working with our volunteer organization. And we put in a lot of hours and a lot of days in and whether or not you will find a purchase order necessary to plant the flowers this year,” Clayman said at a meeting earlier this week. “Oh, and one more thing: If you trustees decide to put the kibosh to our beautification efforts, when people ask any of us where the flowers have gone, we will have to tell them that you stopped us from continuing Liberty in Bloom.”

“I think the flowers are a lovely addition to the township; we have no intention of not supporting it,” Trustee Arnie Clebone added. “Exactly how we can support it, what terms? We’re working on it, saying that, we got a letter in November. … We just got a new trustee (attorney Devon Stanley) who came on; he is going to take the initiative to work out an agreement. And we will determine what we’ll do at that time. But I want to assure everybody, I love the flowers. I think they’re a great addition.”

Despite Clebone’s assurance, the discussion on the topic continued to heat up as public comments talked about what will happen if the trustees disband the organization, speaking as if the decision already was made.

Jean McGuire, president of the Liberty Historical Society, slammed her letter down at Trustee chairman Greg Cizmar stating that the society would want its donation back.

“I am making a formal request that if Liberty in Bloom is no longer important to the township, the historical society would like their contribution repaid to the society. … I think you are about the only group in the Trumbull County area that would turn down free money and free labor. For whatever reason you have in mind, I have no clue.”

Bessie Anderson, an original Liberty in Bloom member, added talk is the trustees are abandoning the organziation and they discourage residents from volunteering.

“If I have to go clean up the flowers, I will,” shouted resident Pam Fisher, who said she is tired of the flower feud monopolizing the trustee meetings.

“I’ve been to several meetings. And I have never heard the people sitting up there, anybody, say about disbanding the group, tearing the flowers out or anything else,” Art Fisher added.

The discussion fell upon Stanley, who answered the volunteers’ question — trustees cannot disband the organization.

“I just want you to understand, nobody would want to torpedo a volunteer organization. The powers that the trustees have are numerated in the Ohio Revised Code, and we do not have the power to terminate a volunteer organization. My understanding also via letters, it somehow someway was grafted into the township by a line item or resolution in 2013. So we don’t have power to terminate your volunteer organization or your volunteer efforts,” Stanley said.

In response to the meeting, former trustee Jodi Stoyak emailed a statement that attorney Mark Finamore put together for the 2013 resolution allowing the organization to have a fund within the township along with what Paul Avdey, who attended the most recent 7:30 a.m. meeting, said regarding the organization. Avdey said Stanley didn’t like the way Liberty in Bloom was set up.

Stanley did express concerns to Avdey, but also echoed Clebone that trustees are not against the organization. But he said they do need to discuss how they will be involved in what the organization does. He also said he plans to have an answer to that before the next regular meeting on Feb. 10.

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