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Council Woman: No Conflict in Vote on $15,000 Loan to Save Historic House

Ward 6 Representative Tracy Wallach not involved with Kent Wells-Sherman House group at time of vote on city loan to help restore, relocate house

A Kent councilwoman who voted June 20 to loan city money to an effort to has become closely involved with a group formed around the effort.

Just days ago, Ward 6 representative Tracy Wallach became a member of the board of directors of the group, called Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., and acted on the group’s behalf to incorporate with the state.

On Wednesday, Wallach bowed to questions raised by opponents of the restoration plan by abstaining from a vote on a routine appropriations ordinance that included making $15,000 available in the city budget for the loan.

Concerns about the councilwoman's connection to the group surfaced this week when a supporter of, the group that to a lot adjacent to its gallery, questioned Wallach's association with Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc.

Standing Rock supporter Lisa Regula Meyer emailed Mayor Jerry Fiala questioning whether Wallach would abstain from council action related to the house relocation effort.

"If anything comes up with the Wells Sherman House I will excuse myself," Wallach told Kent Patch before the meeting.

Kent Law Director Jim Silver said Wallach did nothing illegal or improper by taking a leading role with the group after voting for the city loan.

"It looks like it, but if she is not getting any money back from that connection it's not a problem," Silver said. "As long as she is just volunteering her time there's no problem with that."

Other members of council supported Wallach, emphasizing she did nothing illegal in her June 20 vote.

At-large Councilman Robin Turner said the law clearly states Wallach can vote on such an issue as long as neither she, nor a family member, directly receives money as a result.

"It's not like she's deriving any personal benefit from it," Turner said. "I don't see any conflict of interest at all."

Wallach said she’s aware that residents might raise questions about her June 20 vote and plans to abstain on any further action before council related to the issue.

"I believe the importance of restoring the house is so vital that I'm willing to take the hit," she said of the initial vote.

Since that vote, supporters of restoring the house formed the Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., to take over the project. Some members of TransPortage opposed managing the project on the grounds it violated the group's mission statement.

"I was not involved in any committees when that (council vote) happened," Wallach said. "I didn't get involved until last week."

Teresa K. July 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I am VERY HAPPY that Ms. Wallach stands for something. Even if it is house that will NEVER be a home and never have a family occupying it.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The details that were left out of this article are that the board didn't come into existence until July 5th (filed July 3rd) and so that's why Wallach wasn't a member of the board (it didn't exist obviously so that's not difficult to figure out) and maybe it should be noted (for the taxpayers and citizens benefit) that Wallach was the council member who made the motion to make this a grant instead of a loan to the tune originally of up to $40,000. If you don't question ethics, at least question finances and conflicts of interest. By the way, one proposed use of the house "as a way of softening the gift" as Hawksley stated at the June 6, 2012 Council meeting is that Council can use the house. Don't take my word for it. Read up on your Council minutes (March 28, 2012 Regular Council meeting, April 4, 2012 Community Development, June 6, 2012 Community Development) for yourself on the website. Note how much input Wallach had as well. No interest at the time? You decide. While you're at it, check out the article from September 27, 2008 in the online Record Courier about which individuals were alleged to violate the Sunshine Law if you didn't know or forgot. Those names just keep popping up.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Website: http://www.kentohio.org/gov2/council.asp
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Also one other clarification that's been stated several times by Lisa Regular Meyer and by me and is apparent on our website for anyone with doubts... She is not a member of SRCA and never has been, neither board nor just a support membership (which doesn't have anything to do with board decisions either). Could that fact finally be straightened out. The information is very evident on the Standing Rock Cultural Arts site. Thank you.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 03:40 PM
An option to read the minutes is on the left.
Matt Fredmonsky July 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM
A change during the editing process last night made it read as if Lisa is a member rather than a supporter. The article has been updated.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Thank you, Matt.
William B Budner ESQ. July 12, 2012 at 06:16 PM
doesn't the mill own most/all of the dilapidated properties on n. water? they seem to have no interest in redevelopment in the area, so bringing n. water back to life seems moot.
Brian July 12, 2012 at 06:27 PM
And the plot thickens... This situation should be a case study for a college course entitled: "Why Small Town Politics are Ugly". As an outsider looking in, may I suggest that both sides should be very concerned with how those of us not involved are perceiving your words, actions, tactics, etc. Keep in mind that they reflect upon both organizations. You may win, but you need to ask: "At what cost?" Please play nice.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 06:43 PM
and any properties that become available on the west side of water st. will be purchased by the mill, i believe.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 06:57 PM
So far, there is one member of SRCA speaking in this line of commentary and the statements are backed by public record and fact or an offer to research it and decide what you think as a taxpayer following a public loan. I gently ask what did you take issue with, Brian?
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Incidentally, my comments weren't about a "win" either. They are about ethical and financial responsibility and accountability in granting public loans at the taxpayers' expense and serving the public and public record.
Tina Puckett July 12, 2012 at 07:08 PM
One other item that wasn't mentioned for "the outsider looking in" is that a loan was granted to a different nonprofit, TransPortage, at the start of this project and members of the Wells Sherman House Incorporated that Council member Tracy Wallach just filed on July 3, 2012 have indicated that this city loan will be transferred to the Wells Sherman House Incorporated organization. No public meeting seems to have been scheduled in this matter so is city approval not needed for the use of the public's funds that were granted to a different nonprofit organization? This should be at least somewhat of a concern for any city taxpayer and/or resident since it's on your dole.
Joseph Hughes July 12, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Concerned Kent Citizen: I'm continually baffled by your belief that moving a major fixer-upper (with scant actual historic parts) into a vibrant community space for the purpose of being a private office with some sort of public conference room — at great cost to the people of Kent, who haven't been dealt with openly from the pro-moving side where legally required — would send a "rippling message of progress and re-development" in that part of town. Seems like what you should really be saying is that it would send a lot of work to the ex-mayor who is spearheading the move and who also happens — again, big coincidence — to be an architect ... who specializes in historic preservation and adaptive re-use.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 07:36 PM
i think you qualify as a troll, no? did your mama name you "concerned kent citizen"?
Joseph Hughes July 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Concerned Kent Citizen: If that IS what you're saying, doesn't that make you stop for a second to shake your head at all of the "lucky breaks" this project has gotten that have all seemed to benefit the ex-mayor, who stands to make a lot of money from this project? Is it more important that we as citizens of Kent help line the ex-mayor's pockets? Or that we respect the very notions of needless development that the ex-mayor has in the past claimed to be against? There's not ONE parcel of land in this city — one that's not already used by a vibrant community of Kent citizens — that both sides and the city could come to an agreement to move the house to? The group of people that use that piece of land happen to be of all ages as well as all races. I'm starting to think that THAT bit of demographic reality is what is hurting that side the most in their negotiations with the ex-mayor's side, which is uniformly homogeneous and in a lot of cases much better off financially. And that's sad.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 07:51 PM
and it is, tina. i've never stepped foot in SRCA - but as a homeowner/taxpayer/troll i don't appreciate council wasting money on projects of their personal interests (wallach) or the personal projects of their friends (hawksley). but even though i'm not a SRCA affiliate, the other side has come off as nothing short of smug, condescending and completely unprepared for the task ahead of them - just another reason to root for the other guy.
Joseph Hughes July 12, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Class act all the way around, posting a picture of a crying baby as a comment on a major fracture within the city you claim to be concerned so much about.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 07:54 PM
maybe the 20th time you link to that photo it will get the laugh so crave.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 07:57 PM
well i'd be careful about throwing stones from a glass house kent resident and concerned citizen
Matt Fredmonsky July 12, 2012 at 08:27 PM
A comment was removed for violating Patch's terms of use. http://kent.patch.com/terms
Matt Fredmonsky July 12, 2012 at 08:28 PM
As a point of clarification, no "ex-mayor" of Kent is directly involved in this. Rick Hawksley is a former member of Kent City Council.
Paxton Crenshaw July 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM
people probably get confused because he lost his bid to be mayor through a coin toss. and then lost his bid to fill the vacant council-at-large seat several months back. there must be something to it that keeps him at it so...
Joseph Hughes July 12, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Duh! I stand corrected. Still, massive conflicts of interest abound, regardless of position.
Ian Jones July 13, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I wish Kent Wells-Sherman House Inc. all the best in preserving this historic home that is not only architecturally unique for the city, but also so strongly tied to significant historic members of Kent's community.
Fred Pierre July 13, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Here's to saving both the house and the green space! If we weren't in such a rush, we would find a great solution that would actually improve our town. Haste makes waste!
Brian July 17, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Tina, I have read all of the articles and associated comments regarding this dispute. My comment was made in response to the totality of the tenor conveyed by both sides. I was not addressing anything in particular that you said. Both sides' advocates (official, supporter, or troll) have not always played nice. It was a "gentle" reminder for some of the participants that are not being 100% truthful. They know who they are and what they have said.
Tina Puckett July 17, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I understand and it's a good point.
Delores Umbridge July 25, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Hmmm... So Ms. Wallach is not on the board of Kent Wells Sherman House, but her address is used on their incorporating papers, and their website? And she then makes the motion on July 18th to grant the loan to the brand new organization that resides at her address? Interesting...

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