To the disappointment and frustration of most of the township supervisors, a Mahoning police officer who was fired several months ago decided to waive a public hearing on the matter.
The hearing was scheduled last night. Attorney Thomas Nanovic, solicitor for the township, said he received a call three hours before the hearing from the lawyer representing Officer Amie Barclay, requesting the waiving of the matter into arbitration.
By a vote of 4-0 the supervisors reluctantly agreed to the arbitration.
"We have no choice," remarked Chairman John Wieczorek.
The fifth supervisor, Travis Steigerwalt, left the meeting room earlier, well before the vote occurred.
Supervisor Linda Benner asked if the charges levied by the township against Barclay, and the defense that she provides, would ever be made public by going through an arbiter. Nanovic said he believes the arbitration proceedings are private.
Wieczorek commented, "We are transferring our authority to an impartial umpire without ever hearing the facts."
According to the legal notice placed in the TIMES NEWS regarding the hearing, it was Barclay who made the request. It stated, "Ms. Barclay believes the termination was without just cause, has filed a grievance, and has requested a hearing."
It was not indicated why she was fired from her position as a longtime police officer.
The arbitration proceedings will involve Chief of Police Kenneth Barnes, Barclay, and their respective lawyers.
Benner interpreted Barclay's late decision on waiving the hearing as disrespectful to the supervisors. Benner said she feels Barclay "is trying to make a fool out of us."
Nanovic said he feels that waiving the hearing is the best decision for all the involved parties. He said that at a hearing, Barnes would have presented his case and Barclay would have said nothing. Whatever decision made at the hearing would then be appealed to arbitration anyway.
Wieczorek felt the township would have a better chance in arbitration if a hearing had been held and a record of that hearing would have been forwarded to the arbitrator.
George Stawnyczyj, a supervisor, stated, "I feel what happened tonight is unfair to the residents. All they hear about this are the rumors out there. This was a chance for an open forum for the public."
"The residents are paying for this," he said. "They're paying the salaries. They're paying for all this bologna. They're entitled to know."
Fewer than a half dozen residents attended the scheduled hearing.