Wauseon Mayor Kathy Huner must decide whether or not to initiate the process to remove Martin Estrada from his appointed council position for not being a registered voter in Fulton County when he was appointed after a 3-5 recommendation to do so at the March 2 meeting.
After a heated debate among council members, Councilor Shane Chamberlin made the motion to recommend Huner begin the removal proceedings, even though he did not favor the motion and ultimately voted against. “It’s time to move forward. Let’s have an up and down vote on it on whether or not we initiate the removal process,” Chambelin said in regard to why he put forth a motion he does not support.
At the beginning of the discussion, Huner told council that after the February 16 meeting, Fire Chief Rick Sluder approached her regarding Estrada’s residency. Estrada provided proof of residency when questions arose about his voter registration. Huner stated that Sluder didn’t think Estrada’s residence above his place of business was up to fire code. Estrada, however, said he was informed about the potential code violation on his place or residence two hours prior to the March 2 council meeting.
In Estrada said, “I barely had time to research this, but it is zoned as B3. B3 is commercial, as well as, residential. I will talk it over with my attorney to find out if I can stay up there, if not I will immediately move from my business residence to another residence within the city limits.” Estrada also said, “I was told that because we weren’t charging rent, that I could live up there and there wasn’t anything in the law that said I couldn’t live up there.”
Council President Heather Kost said that Estrada’s potential code violation concerned her because he sits on the Safety and Code Committee and may have a code violation with his residence.
Councilor Jeff Stiriz, who reported the charter violation in regard to Estrada’s voter registration to Council in February, said that he does not have a vendetta against Estrada. “I just don’t want to get in trouble down the road finding out that your vote has effected something in three months…and somebody fights it and says well he should never have been on,” he said.
Law Director Thomas McWatters said that there is a provision in the removal process that if there is a removal their actions remain valid and wouldn’t effect council. However, McWatters also said that a person is entitled to bring an action for whatever reason challenging the authority of a person to sit, whether or not that action would successful.
Kost said that she has concerns that Estrada goes out on his own without consulting department heads or committees. “You need to follow procedure. There is protocol to follow as a council member. You are not administration. You are legislation…There is a process…That doesn’t mean we can’t have a conversation, but it does mean the conversation should start over here [with department heads], you can find out what they’re doing,” Kost said.
“It’s an idea. Ideas start small and then once you get them organized you take them to committees…You have to talk about it to someone and once it seems like a good idea, then you bring it to a committee. Some things are not good ideas,” Estrada said in response.
In defense of Estrada, Chamberlin said, “Some things will not make it to committee because it might be a pipe dream or just a wish list item, which is just not committee ready. You’re OK to have your own thoughts. I applaud Martin for having energy to be a city council member and hopes and dreams are OK to have. They don’t have to go to a committee.”
Along with Chamberlin, Councilor Jon Schamp also voted against the recommendation. Council President Heather Kost along with Councilor Rick Frey and Stiriz, voted in favor. Estrada abstained from the vote.
Huner said that she needed to review and would announce her decision in two weeks at the March 16 council meeting. Law Director Thomas McWatters said that a three-fourths majority is required to remove a council member. If the vote remains as is, Estrada would not be removed from his position, which expires in December 2015.
Shar may be reached at