Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Open Invitation to my fellow Ashtabulians:

by Monique Kawalek

I am often the only citizen in attendance at meetings held by Ashtabula County Commissioners. Expenditures, new positions, levies and the like are barely discussed much less evaluated at work sessions.  Elaborate and lengthy resolutions, which are presumably derived as a result of work sessions, pass without discussion at the speed of light.
More taxpayers should make a point of attending. An informed, and participating, electorate is essential to ensuring any kind of government works as intended.
My family moved to Ashtabula a little over than two years ago. We chose this as our home because we were struck both by its beauty and the goodness of the people we met. Now, we are Ashtabulians.
 My background is in business and over the years I have watched businesses I knew fail because they ignored the realities of ensuring their resources were used well and judiciously. The problems here parallel those now confronting business, and government, around the country.
I began to interview people who depended on programs funded by Ashtabula County. My concerns grew. I found disabled people who are uneasy when making a doctor's appointment for fear of being stranded being just one of the rampant problems with the ACT Program. I wondered why this, and other programs, were contracted to businesses outside our county at such high costs.
People who had legitimate and dangerous issues which involved young children who were not being served by the Ashtabula Children's Services.  Those most in need were not being cared for and treated with dignity and respect. Their stories are appalling.

This past Tuesday, when I entered the scheduled Commissioner meeting, I expected to once again simply listen and take notes.
At first, it was like other meetings I have attended. The  Commissioners were present along with Lisa Hawkins, Clerk of the Board,  Janet Discher, County Administrator and a woman reporter from the Star Beacon. 
The 34 minute work session was fairly uneventful.  Of note a short discussion about a notice to request bids for a turnkey web content management system complete with training was discussed, this to cost in excess of 50k.  No mention was made of the impact passage of the Charter Amendment would necessarily have on any web presence for the County. 

But apparently the Charter Amendment  was very much on Mr. Claypool's mind as he confronted me at the conclusion of the meeting. Mr. Claypool and I are not acquainted so I was expecting cold courtesy.  Instead in increasingly shrill tones and ever redder face he complained about an email that said nothing about him and turned our discussion into being all about him. He ranted about his exemplary career,  he informed me he had never done anything illegal  and in summation he intimated I should be grateful for all his hard, honest work and accomplishments.

I am fairly new here to Ashtabula County so I am not very clear on what those accomplishments are, but I guess I can begin to research them. Despite his inappropriate tone to a citizen I think he deserves credit for honesty in this case. It’s not many politicians that would flat out come apart in front of a Charter Committee person  because when enacted he would lose his position. If that wasn’t such a selfish motivation, and if he hadn’t been so narcissistic and petulant in delivering it, I might admire him for that rare political trait: blunt honesty.
After a little research what I have discovered is that Mr. Claypool had retired and now is rehired.  He enjoys a pension as well as a salary at a time when many Ashtabulians are struggling for food and shelter with no promise of security in sight.

Among other things we must demand our politicians  approach  the challenges facing our County objectively.  They are responsible for what they do - and for what they do to us who trusted them to act on our behalf.

It was my initial attendance at Commissioner meetings which led me to become more involved with a diverse group of citizens proposing changes which bring government back to the people. The people involved are democrats, republicans, independents, and libertarians.  We share the sense that accountability along with effective research, are desperately needed to nurture prosperity here in Ashtabula County.  

The Charter government promises to return government to the people. Instead of 3 Commissioners the people will elect 7 Council people, each representing a specific constituency. We believe this makes the government more accountable and available to the people.

For more good things for Ashtabulians  please take a look at the details of the Charter at

I started this letter as an invitation, the invitation is to join me at our County meetings.  Email Lisa Hawkins ( and ask her to be put on the mailing list. Request from her the meeting schedule each week, the minutes from work sessions, the agendas and the resolutions.

I shake my head every time I see taxpayer money wasted, misappropriated or squandered.  All expenditures must be considered carefully so all can be served, especially those most in need.
Together we need to ask questions, support good ideas, and ensure the voice of the people is present in our government.

Monique Kawalek

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