Upper Sandusky City Council has approved Mayor Scott Washburn’s request to appoint Jim Wheeler to the city’s tree commissioner. Wheeler replaces John Walker, who resigned last month.
“(Wheeler) actually contacted me,” Washburn said during Monday night’s city council meeting. “He saw it in the newspaper and contacted me and said he was interested in serving.”
City council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to vacate an alley on Spring Street. No discussion was held Monday on the issue, but a public hearing was held April 16 when the owners of the property adjacent to the alley met with city council. There are no utilities in the alley located south of the railroad tracks and city officials see no reason why the alley should not be vacated.
In other business, city council passed the first reading of a resolution affirming the city’s membership in the Buckeye Ohio Risk Management Association to provide employee health benefits.
“That’s our insurance and proof that we are member of it,” Washburn said. “We have some new staff.”
“This is just a routine maintenance thing we have to do,” council President Don Spiegel added.
Both the BORMA resolution and the ordinance to vacate the alley on Spring Street must pass three readings before they go into effect. Council will vote on both issues at its May 21 meeting.
Also Monday, Upper Sandusky attorney Mary Snyder asked for city council’s support in her race for prosecutor. Snyder will face Wyandot County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Miller in the November election.
“I’m running for prosecutor because I don’t believe my opponent is doing the job as well as he could or as well as it should be done,” Snyder said. “In order to effectively prosecute the cases the Upper Sandusky Police Department makes, it’s important that one has the courage to take cases to trial, as well as the conviction to negotiate pleas that aren’t so much of a bargain that you are giving away the store.”
Snyder said she is running because she does not think plea deals should have been offered in several cases, including that of former city employee Neil Billeg, who in February was sentenced to seven years in prison for having sexual contact with a juvenile over a span of several years.
“After an investigation by your police department, the prosecutor received an indictment for nine counts, two of which were felonies of the first degree, rape charges, and because of the age of the victim, those rape charges would have carried a potential life sentence,” Snyder told city council members. “After plea negotiations and a plea deal, the maximum possible penalty was reduced from life to just nine years in prison. Ultimately, all the sentence that Neil Billeg received was seven years in prison.
“Unfortunately, this style of resolving cases has become quite common,” Snyder added. “In my opponent’s first year in office, less than 10 percent of the cases were resolved by pleas to reduced charges. In 2010, over 33 percent of the cases were resolved with charges reduced in order to negotiate the plea. Plea agreements are very effective in an efficient way to resolve cases, but resolving one-third of your case load by reducing charges is just, in my opinion, unacceptable.”
Snyder also referenced a 2011 traffic stop in which Upper Sandusky Police officer Andy Silcox and his K-9 partner Hunter assisted the Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office in recovering a large amount of cash, drugs and a handgun, but the suspect only was sentenced to misdemeanor charges.
“During the search, they recovered approximately a pound of marijuana, $27,775 in cash, a handgun, small amounts of heroine and cocaine, as well as numerous pills,” Snyder said. “The only thing the defendant in that case was asked to plead guilty to was possession of the marijuana. Because of that, he received a sentence of six months at Crosswaeh, 50 hours of community service, a two-year license suspension and three years of community control or probation.
“To me, when you’re carrying that kind of cash, along with drugs and a handgun, you’re probably doing more than just using drugs, but the sentence he received would be comparable for had we retrieved an addict, someone we would want to get treatment,” she added. “That’s an unacceptable resolution of Hunter and Andy Silcox’s work.”
Snyder concluded her seven-minute talk with why she is the best person for the job of county prosecutor.
“I have the courage to fight; I have the confidence to lead and I believe if given the opportunity, I can do a better job than what’s being done currently,” she said.
Spiegel extended an invitation for Miller to come speak to city council.
“We also invite Jonathan Miller to come and plead his case before us if he cares to,” Spiegel said.
By CHANDA NEELY