Latest Meeting Proof Unity Is Needed With Lakewood Village Board

On Friday, we wrote that the remaining members of the Lakewood Village Board had an opportunity to build unity among board members as they agreed upon a new acting mayor and consult with the remaining three board members to fill the then-vacated open trustee position.

We should have known it wouldn’t be that easy given how things have been lately among Village Board members.

Friday’s meeting devolved into the same old muck and mire that has defined Lakewood for the last couple of years. Trustee Randall Holcomb, who had indicated he would vote again for McCague to be appointed mayor prior to Friday’s special meeting, changed his voting intention after being told that former Mayor Cara Birrittieri had been told by unnamed actors not to resign her post until after the Sept. 19 deadline to have a village election placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election. For Holcomb, that information, combined with the fact that McCague hadn’t reached out before Friday’s meeting to Barnes and Holcomb about a nominee for the new Village Board member, was evidence that more time was needed before appointing McCague mayor. McCague correctly pointed out that he can’t make an appointment until the board appoints him mayor; but Barnes and Holcomb counter that McCague has the sole authority to make the appointment and want to be sure their candidates are considered before voting to appoint McCague mayor. Background work could have been done on the trustee appointment and the information shared before a legally binding mayoral appointment is approved.

Had Birrittieri submitted her resignation before moving out of the area, Lakewood residents would have been able to cast their ballot Tuesday for a new mayor — no muss, no fuss. Instead, the way the resignation was handled has poured salt into still-fresh wounds for Holcomb and Ellen Barnes, who detailed during Friday’s special meetings what they describe as longstanding conduct of being shut out of village business because they often disagreed with the former mayor. McCague said it was unfair for Barnes and Holcomb to transplant their frustration over their treatment from Birrittieri to McCague. His point would have carried more water, however, had he not immediately had a testy verbal exchange with Barnes after she said she couldn’t support appointing a mayor who isn’t transparent with the rest of the board, specifically citing Holcomb and Barnes being removed from many village committees by Birrittieri, the July water testing in the village and village committees where groups were to begin meeting before Holcomb and Barnes were even told who was serving on the committees or had voted on the committeee’s composition.

While all four members are registered Republicans, it sure doesn’t look like a board with four members of the same political party. For the past year, there has been a clear delineation when it comes to controversial issues — Holcomb and Barnes on one side and McCague and Doug Schutte on the other with the mayor as the tie-breaking vote. That’s why Holcomb and Barnes are insistent on having a say on appointing a village resident to the board seat that will be vacated with McCague’s possible appointment as mayor. They don’t necessarily want a board member who will agree with them all the time, but they at least want a fighting chance.

Friday’s contentious meeting doesn’t mean the village is in total disarray. The four board members have agreed on many votes within village government, so village residents can rest assured the lights will remain on, the bills will remain paid and village services will be provided. On anything the least bit controversial, however, expect 2-2 votes and no decision to be made. And, when it comes to the 2019-2020 budget, hold on to your hats.