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Salineville's new mayor cleaning up an old mess

January 23, 2012
Morning Journal News

Newly elected Salineville Mayor Mary Smith has hit the ground running since she took office at the beginning of the year, and it's a good thing - she has a pretty big mess to clean up from the last administration.

One of her first acts was to close the village-owned and operated fitness center. Since the village had inherited the gym equipment when several buildings were donated to the town by Huntington Bank, providing a fitness center with reasonably priced membership fees to village residents seems like a good idea, as long as it is operated legally.

Since its inception in November of 2010 the question of whether a public entity could legally operate a for-profit business has gone unanswered. Now Smith has wisely chosen to close it down until that question is answered and other questionable operation practices are revised. She has sought a legal opinion from newly appointed solicitor Andy Beech.

The modus operandi of the past administration was to act first and question legality later - a dangerous way to run anything, let alone village government.

Besides its existence being legally questioned, Smith discovered that the financial books of the gym were in disastrous condition as well. She told council she couldn't tell who had paid, who had been issued keys, whose membership was current and whose was not. She couldn't even find a receipt book for gym memberships. She also hasn't been able to find out if the gym was insured.

When it was first started, gym membership fees were to be paid at village hall. But Smith said she recently was advised that members either paid their membership fees at former Mayor Dave Berta's business garage or in a drop box located outside the gym door. When Fiscal Officer David Slagle was questioned, he said Berta had given him money from the gym to deposit, but for the past month or two, Slagle has been collecting money from the drop box himself and depositing it.

"I don't think that box is very safe. It's not a good idea," Slagle said. Not a good idea at all, and not a good way for a village to conduct business.

If all goes according to plan, and the gym is found to be a legal operation, Smith said she hopes to see it reopen for business in February, but emphasized this will hinge on all the legalities being worked out.

We wish Smith luck in cleaning up this mess and hope she remains a stickler for making sure all village business is conducted openly and legally.



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