Residents question village's garage lease with councilman's wife - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Residents question village's garage lease with councilman's wife

Residents question why the village is leasing this garage from a councilman's wife. (Source: WOIO) Residents question why the village is leasing this garage from a councilman's wife. (Source: WOIO)
North Randall Mayor David Smith challenged our investigation. (Source: WOIO) North Randall Mayor David Smith challenged our investigation. (Source: WOIO)
NORTH RANDALL, OH (WOIO) -

Some North Randall residents had questions over village's leasing of a large garage for the maintenance department. The building had a close connection to a village councilman, who put it in his wife's name.  

The obvious place to start on a document hunt is at Village Hall, where Andrea Morris is the fiscal officer. Reporter Paul Orlousky asked for the lease for a storage barn for the service garage. While we didn't get the leasing contract, we got the law director’s phone number. He was surprised by that, since he had told her they were public records. Two hours later, we went back for the lease paperwork, and met Mayor David Smith. 

We got off to a somewhat contentious start. The mayor wanted to know who called us.

"So if I show you the lease will that satisfy this person?" 

We hadn't even seen the paperwork yet.

We reviewed it and all seemed to be in order. The building is owned by Jean Epley, the wife of Village Councilman Richard Epley prompting calls to us. 

"Who would have that question? Who would inquire about that? Everything we do here is public record, open meeting," the mayor challenged again.  

The village council voted after legal counsel to pay $30,000 annually for the building for five years. It was voted on without competitive bidding, which the mayor says is not a problem.

"There are no other available properties in the community. This community is land locked. There aren't any properties where we can go that has a garage that would facilitate our needs," explained Smith.  

In a village with lots of empty buildings, some people scratched their heads at that reasoning. 

The mayor explained that the city is on a comeback and has been able to buy several new trucks, but has no place to put them. The current garage is simply too small. 

So until a new facility and Village Hall are built, it was the only solution.

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