Nelsonville City Council finds itself deadlocked again as it tries to fill a vacant seat

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WOUB) — The Nelsonville City Council tried to fill an open council seat Monday night but once again found itself deadlocked.

The council has had six members since the resignation of former member Neil Sommers. Sommers resigned May 18, and his resignation was accepted during a council meeting on May 22.

Monday’s meeting was the first since then, and the city had hopes of filling the position. Cory Taylor, Jonathan Flowers and Stuart Brooks all applied for the vacant seat.

The three men spoke at the meeting and their remarks were peppered with various digs and insults thrown at the council. Taylor was the first to the podium.

“I have always been all in for the city,” Taylor said. “The reality is, though, we have folks on here that are not for the city, they’re for themselves.”

“Some people on this council are not working for the good of the city?” Councilwoman Glennda Tingle said in response to Taylor’s remarks. “That’s your opinion?”

Taylor concurred that it was his opinion, emphasizing it was some people on council not all.

Cory Taylor tells Nelsonville City Council members why he is hoping to fill a vacant council seat.
Cory Taylor tells Nelsonville City Council members why he is hoping to fill a vacant council seat. [Hailey Hollinger | WOUB]
Flowers was next to the podium.

“You six are like a football team or a basketball team with two extra people,” Flowers said. He went on to say the council should act like a team and not create divides by purposely voting against people. “That’s not what this city is about,” he said.

Brooks didn’t reference division on the council in his remarks, but talked about the community outreach he’s done throughout his life.

All three candidates talked about their love for the city and their desire for it to succeed. After they were done speaking, Councilman Justin Booth nominated Taylor to the open seat, while Councilwoman Nancy Sonick nominated Brooks.

The vote for Taylor tied 3-3, with some uproar from the audience after Councilman Gregg Clement voted yes. The vote for Brooks also deadlocked. Dan Sherman, Sonick and Tingle voted yes for Brooks and no for Taylor. Councilman Tony Dunfee, Clement and Booth voted yes for Taylor and no for Brooks.

After the votes, Sherman addressed Dunfee, the council president.

“So I guess we can assume you’ll be appointing Cory Taylor next week?”

Dunfee replied, “You will assume nothing.”

The city charter states that the council has 30 days to appoint a new member to council after a seat becomes vacant. After the 30 days, the decision is up to the council president. The charter isn’t clear about when a council seat becomes vacant. If it’s at the time of resignation, the 30 days will be up Saturday. If it’s at the time the council approved the resignation, the 30 days will be up next Wednesday. The council doesn’t meet in regular session again until June 26.

Appointing a new council member will be crucial to the city moving forward. During the council meeting on May 22, the council was deadlocked over whether former City Manager Bernie Roell could rescind his resignation. It hasn’t been able to make a personnel decision since.

If the council were to call a special meeting to vote again to fill the vacant council seat, the chances of reaching agreement would be slim because of what appears to be an entrenched 3-3 split.

The council’s division is upsetting to the public, as the audience voiced during the meeting. People shouted “Good ‘ol boys club” in reference to the way the council is divided. Some in attendance even mentioned contacting the state because they don’t feel the council is doing what’s best for the public.

“You’re more concerned with making whatever happiness you want for yourself and your friends, instead of this town,” city manager administrative assistant Rita Nguyen said during the public comment period.

WOUB talked to Brooks after the meeting and asked what he saw himself doing moving forward.

“Moving out of this town,” Brooks said. “I’m not putting up with this.”