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Ethics committee backs councilman on Bosworth vote

June 19, 2008
By Sam Shawver,
Marietta City Councilman Harley Noland sought advice from the Ohio Ethics Commission to determine whether he should vote on an ordinance that would allow bids for an easement across city property in back of the Biszantz-Bosworth house at 317 Third St.

“I talked with a representative from the ethics commission, and they had no problem with my voting on the measure,” Noland, D-at large, said Wednesday.

Ordinance 20 would allow the city to advertise for bids on an easement extending from the alley behind the Bosworth home across a municipal employee parking lot to a six-vehicle lot located at the rear of the house.

Bosworth Preservation Partners, owners of the historic home, purchased the property in early 2007 because they were concerned it would be demolished. Now the partners would like to sell the property, but say it is not marketable without an easement that would allow owners to access the lot at the back side of the house.

The legislation was tabled on second reading in March at Noland’s request after concerns were raised about a possible conflict of interest due to his partnership in a local trolley tours business with John Lehman, one of the partners in the Bosworth group.

To resolve that issue, Noland bought Lehman’s interest and now owns 100 percent of the business.

But during the June 5 Marietta City Council session, Noland noted another question had surfaced about a design consulting business he also owns that provides services to another Bosworth partner.

On Wednesday, he said that concern prompted him to contact the Ohio Ethics Commission.

“I asked them specifically about my doing design consultation with one of the Bosworth partners,” Noland said. “I was told it would not be a conflict as long as I’m not providing consultation services on the Bosworth property.”

Because the ordinance deals with a real estate issue, passage requires the support of at least five of the seven council members. Four already support the measure and an affirmative vote from Noland would assure its passage.

Two members, Kathy Shively, D-at large, and Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, have said they would vote against the ordinance as it is now written.

During a lands, buildings and parks committee meeting on Tuesday, Noland said he would cast a vote on the issue. He also submitted three proposed amendments to the legislation aimed at reaching a compromise on the issue.

The first would declare the easement null and void if the Bosworth property is ever demolished, and the second would require the successful bidder on the easement to be responsible for maintaining the driveway road surface.

The third amendment would define the height of air space above the easement in case the city would build an elevated walkway over the property in the future.

Shively also recommended a fourth amendment that would require a minimum bid for the property to cover any expenses the city might encounter in the easement transaction.

“I’m happy to see them adding the amendments; it shows commitment on their part,” Shively said Wednesday. “I would also like to see a hold harmless clause added, although I have not talked with the other members about that.”

She still stops short of committing her support to the measure.

Vukovic was out of town and not available for comment on Wednesday.

Councilman Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, said even though the issue would probably now have enough votes to pass, he wants to allow all parties to have input before a final decision is made.

“We want the best legislation that we can have, and we’re opening up the discussion to try to address everyone’s concerns,” he said. “It’s ultimately Harley’s decision to vote or abstain, but whether we have the votes or not, we want to work with the other council members on this. We want everyone’s input, but we’re not going to hold the issue on the table forever.”

Grimm tabled the ordinance for another 30 days on June 5, and plans to schedule another committee meeting to discuss the measure next week.


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