MetroParks officials respond to lawsuit alleging Sunshine Law violations

From The Vindicator Mill Creek MetroParks officials today responded to a lawsuit filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Thursday alleging that park leaders violated Ohio Sunshine Law in its planning of a February staff restructuring that eliminated numerous park jobs.

“It is unfortunate that the tactics utilized by certain individuals and various special interest groups, all of which have been on full display at recent park board meetings, have transitioned into the legal realm,” Young said in a statement sent to The Vindicator.

“These tactics and related false claims will now cause the unfortunate and unnecessary expenditure of critical tax dollars in avenues other than what is vitally important to park users; which is improving the MetroParks. Great things are happening daily at the MetroParks and you can see that in the recent physical improvements at the Golf Course, the Lily Pond and Lanterman’s Mill Parking Lot as well as the new partnerships that provided for the renting of bicycles at the Kirk Road Trailhead.

“The impact of these physical improvements and new recreational opportunities is visible on the smiling faces of the many visitors, of whom we will continue to diligently for,” Young said.

MetroParks board president John Ragan also responded today, saying, “I’m not sure why they filed the lawsuit. I think it’s frivolous. It’s just costing us more and more money to defend what we’ve done, and I think we’ve defended that in the public exactly why we did what we did. I don’t think we violated any Sunshine Laws, so I’m not sure what the whole argument is,” he said.

The lawsuit — filed by Barbara Brothers of Youngstown, and married couple Suzanne Anzellotti and Jim Ray of Poland — alleges that Young and the park board violated state law governing public meetings in its execution of the staff restructuring by planning for the move via email and executive-session meetings. The complaint asks the court, among other things, to declare the position eliminations unlawful and issue an injunction to restore those employees affected by the restructuring to their former positions.