Thursday, Jul 28, 2016
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Whitehouse: Mayor defends naming of nephew to council

Whitehouse Mayor Stanley Wielinski's appointment of his nephew to Village Council may have raised a few eyebrows around town, but officials said the appointment does not violate the village charter or state ethics laws.

The mayor appointed Joe Wielinski, 30, to fill a vacant council seat earlier this month. His term expires at the end of the year.

"He seemed very interested in being on council," the mayor said. "I looked at the other candidates and thought it was time for some younger people; some new blood."

Village council has had a vacant seat since December, when Jim Baber resigned because he was moving out of the village. The remaining council members appointed Frank Billings to the empty seat in January. Mr. Billings resigned after officials said he did not meet the village charter's eligibility requirements because he had been registered to vote in the village for less than two years.

After a council seat has been vacant more than 30 days, the mayor can appoint a new member without the approval of council, according to the village charter.

Mayor Wielinski met with council members to get unofficial nominations for the council position.

"The mayor wanted to have council participate in who should be considered," Village Administrator Randy Bukas said.

Council members suggested about 10 people who would be interested in filling the seat, including former council members and members of the village's planning commission. At the meeting, Mayor Wielinski brought up the possibility of appointing his nephew, council members said.

Mr. Bukas said the village has a policy that forbids nepotism, but it addresses administrative employees rather than elected officials.

"I don't think council members are really covered by our personnel policy," he said.

Jennifer Hardin, chief advisory attorney for the Ohio Ethics Commission, said nepotism laws probably do not apply to Mayor Wielinski's appointment.

"Generally, the commission has said that a public official should not use his power to secure something of value for a close family member, which could include a compensated council seat," she said. "A close family member would be a spouse or a parent. It doesn't really apply to more distant relatives."

Whitehouse council members receive $3,000 annually.

Joe Wielinski did not return phone calls requesting comment. He has a bachelor's degree from Ohio Northern University in business management and accounting, the mayor said, and he serves as a volunteer fireman for the village.

Joe Wielinski is the third member of council, along with Bill May and Ryan Grant, to serve with the village fire department. The mayor also served with the department for more than a decade.

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