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Willoughby Hills Rejects Charter Amendments, But Uncertainty Remains

Voters in Willoughby Hills said "no" on Tuesday to nine charter amendments that would have given its city council greater oversight of the mayor's office, including the power to fire the Mayor. The vote comes one month after Mayor Robert Weger tried to remove six of seven council members.

According to the Lake County Board of Elections, just over half of Willoughby Hills voters opposed each of the nine charter amendments. The ballot measures also included a proposal to require council approval when the mayor appoints a department head, and a measure that would have prohibited city officials from hiring immediate family members.

“The voters have spoken,” Weger told The Plain Dealer. “Now perhaps we can put these things behind us and get on with business as usual.”

Council Vice President John Plecnik said the proposed changes would have given the council more power to serve as a ‘check’ on the Mayor’s office, which in turn would help break the “deadlock” between the two branches of the city’s government.

“These charter amendments would have forced the mayor to work with council,” said Plecnik, who claimed that the mayor, despite saying he wanted to cooperate with the council, has missed half of its meetings in the past several months.

“He hasn’t come to any meetings since he attempted to fire all of Council, and it’s very hard to work with someone who doesn’t even talk to you,” said Plecnik.

Mayor Weger did not respond to ideastream’s request for comment. But Weger reportedly told The Plain Dealer that he has not missed as many meetings as Plecnik claims and that when he did attend, his input was not sought.

Councilwoman Laura Pizmoht, who was in favor of the amendments, said she was disappointed the ballot measures didn't pass. The changes would have forced the mayor and council to work more cooperatively, she said. And although she respects the results of the votes, she added that she felt opponents of the measures tainted public opinion with mailers that attacked her and other councilmembers.

"This negativity is what allowed the amendment to be defeated and I'm concerned that that's being rewarded, Pizmoht said.

By contrast, Councilman David Fiebig said he's fine with the results. The voters weren't given enough time to consider the amendments.

"The process of how a community develops its laws has to be open," Fiebig said. Moreover, he was concerned that the changes would have given the council administrative responsibilities that are better left with the Mayor's office. "It becomes a political tug of war instead of a well-run organization."

Though the ballot measures are decided, uncertainty remains. A court hearing on whether Mayor Weger can remove six councilmembers is scheduled for November 15, according to The Plain Dealer.

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