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Elections board rejects Falls recall date

WARREN — A vote held April 19 to set the date for a recall election in Newton Falls was not valid because council didn’t have a quorum when three members walked out of the meeting before votes were cast, the Trumbull County Board of Elections decided Monday.

Petitions calling for the recall of 4th Ward Councilwoman Sandra Breymaier have been certified by the board of elections, but for the vote to move forward, council has to set a date.

At the April 19 meeting, council voted down a date in 2022, but when it came time to cast a vote to hold the recall on May 25, Breymaier and councilmen Tarry Alberini and Adam Zimmerman stood up and walked out.

That left council members John Baryak and Tesa Spletzer and Mayor Ken Kline, who all voted “yes.” The mayor casts votes in limited circumstances.

Kline argued there had been a quorum when the call for a vote was made, and because of that, the vote should be accepted.

The board of elections, however, found it was noted the group lacked a quorum after the three left, so even though there had been a quorum, there wasn’t when the votes were cast. Because board of elections member Mark Alberini and Councilman Tarry Alberini are cousins, Mark abstained from the elections board vote, which then was 3-0.

Some of the controversy was based on whether Breymaier herself would be able to vote on the matter. Kline argued she should abstain, while law director Joseph Fritz said Kline doesn’t have the authority to tell a council member whether to cast a vote or not. Fritz was acting clerk at the meeting and said he would call Breymaier’s name when taking the vote.

Fritz and David Lynch, village manager, also walked out of the meeting.

Mark Alberini said village council still has plenty of time before the deadline to convene and set a date for the recall.

Kline said the council has until July 8 or 9 to set the date of the election, 90 days after the signatures were verified.

At the meeting Monday, Kline said he plans to put forward legislation that again selects May 25 for the vote.

Kline said it would “clearly be an ethics violation” if Breymaier does cast a vote and expects her to abstain, but if she doesn’t and listens to Fritz’s advice, “the next day I will file ethics commission complaints” against her, Fritz and any others he feels violate ethics in the vote.

“They’ll either follow through and vote with the proper procedures and set a date, or … “ Kline said.

Kline said the issue isn’t whether or not the recall effort is right or wrong, but simply a procedural issue the council needs to complete.

A message was left with Fritz.

Kline claimed rules set by the Ohio Elections Commission prohibited Breymaier from speaking during discussion of the issues, an interpretation challenged by other council members, Alberini and Zimmerman, who both said they believe Breymaier should have the right to participate in the discussion.

Residents said they want to recall her because they are unhappy with her behavior and said she is not representing the ward well.

Meanwhile, Breymaier, Alberini and Fritz signed a letter accusing Kline of “gross misconduct” in connection to that meeting. A council hearing on the accusations against Kline is set May 12, states the letter seeking to remove Kline from office.

Kline said the move is “obvious retaliation” and legal counsel will assist him through the issue.

Resident Rick Kerlin said Monday more than 400 people have signed a petition supporting Kline and against attempts to remove him. Kerlin said they plan to continue getting more signatures through the week both online and in the area near the Statue of Liberty in the village’s downtown.

He said plans are to present the petition to officials at the May 3 meeting. Kerlin said they also have been informed local organizations and groups plan to send letters to officials in support of Kline. “In all my years in Newton Falls, I have never seen anything like what is going on,” Kerlin said.

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