Mill Creek picketers converge on Mahoning County Courthouse

The group held signs that read, “You’re Fired Aaron Young,” “Rescind the Levy” and “Save the Park”

Mill Creek Park protesters gathered outside the Mahoning County Courthouse Monday.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Concerned citizens for Mill Creek MetroParks gathered in Youngstown Monday demanding that Executive Director Aaron Young step down and a replacement hired.

The group gathered outside the Mahoning County Courthouse holding signs that read, “You’re Fired Aaron Young,” “Rescind the Levy,” and “Save the Park,” just to name a few.

Young’s actions as director are under fire after laying off several parks employees last year following the passage of a levy to fund operations at the parks.

The group, which also includes Guardians of Mill Creek MetroParks and Frack Free Mahoning Valley, gathered outside the courthouse to send a message to Judge Robert Rusu, who oversees the governance of the parks.

Rusu was not in his office on Monday. He was speaking to students at a local middle school.

“I think Aaron Young is a very, very bad, poisonous and infectious person that is in charge of all this, but I also blame the board,” said Heidi Hall, protester.

Hattie Wilkins said she expected everyone to keep their jobs once the parks levy passed and feels tricked that they were laid were off. Aaron Young admitted to First News in March that he could have handled the layoffs better. But his message remains that the park needs more money for capital improvements.

Protester Bill Adams plans to bring up a parks board meeting Monday that Aaron Young’s contract called for regular evaluations, and they haven’t seen a public record for one of them yet.

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) Monday renewed calls to change the way MetroPark board members are appointed. Boccieri is the author of House Bill (HB) 561 would require probate judges to engage and seek input from citizens groups when making appointments to park district boards. Under the bill, county commissioners would hold appointment authority for additional board members, beyond the initial three members.

“Some may not agree with me, but I feel that, with the outcry for reform coming from citizens’ groups, this is a responsible step,” Rep. Boccieri said. “This legislation balances the fact that probate judges, as the appointing authority, cannot be out in front on controversial issues because they’re bound by judicial restraint. In taking this into account, the bill allows for a more accountable board.”

Current law permits probate judges to appoint three board members to park districts and then the appointed members, once seated, have the ability to elect an additional two board members. If the board members choose to do so, the probate judge must also appoint those individuals.

HB 561 requires that probate judges provide for a public comment period before making final appointments. If a board elects to add additional members to its body, the legislation requires county commissioners to make those appointments. In vetting additional members, the commissioners are required to abide by the same obligation to involve local groups as the probate judges.

HB 561, joint sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), was introduced earlier this month and awaits a committee assignment. Rep. Michelle Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) is also supportive of the bill and is a part of the bipartisan list of co-sponsors.

A MetroParks board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, May 16, at the MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana-Canfield Rd., Canfield.

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