North Fairfield's mayor will stay in his seat

LynAnne Vucovich • Oct 25, 2019 at 11:30 PM

NORTH FAIRFIELD — The village of North Fairfield held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss mayoral residency issues. In an open session of council, they discussed their concerns regarding Mayor Josh Radcliffe.

Ultimately, council decided Radcliffe would remain mayor. The village solicitor resigned Sept. 9, but Steve Palmer acted as the solicitor during the meeting. 

“It has come to all of our attentions, not just mine, that the mayor, Josh Radcliffe, does not reside in the village and has not resided in the village since Sept. 21,” said Mary Millis, council president. “According to the auditor’s website, the house that he was renting from Mr. (Tom) Leto was sold.”

The mayor said he didn’t expect the process of moving into a new home to take as long as it has and did not think it necessary to inform the council.

Millis said she wasn’t informed until she saw the selling of 108 S. Main St. in the Norwalk Reflector. Millis contacted the Huron County Board of Elections and was informed as an elected official, the mayor must live in the village.

As of an Oct. 11 meeting, the mayor was presented with responses from the board of elections. During this meeting, Millis asked Radcliffe to resign as mayor, due to the Ohio Revised Code stating that the mayor must reside in the city he’s sworn in.

“They said I could resign or they could, of course, remove me from office. They were wanting to avoid a big hubbub,” Radcliffe said.

Millis said she had received multiple calls from village residents, who wished to remain anonymous, expressing their unhappiness with the mayor not living in the village.

“I’m just speaking for the village residents (who) contacted me and this brings us to here,” Millis said. “It’s been 30-some days that he hasn’t resided in the village. … I think if you would have communicated with us, we would be more understanding.”

Radcliffe began the process of attempting to buy 201 W. Main St., which he previously rented, on Sept. 15 and made an offer in writing. His offer was accepted Sept. 20 and put money down Sept. 24.

The mayor said his family will take possession of the home Friday.

“He’s an honest man ... other than the fact that he didn’t inform us,” Millis said. “My opinion of the village residents that contact me, they want a decision and I think that’s the only fair thing that the village residents should receive.”

Radcliffe explained he didn’t inform the council of the move because he didn’t believe it to be an issue and said he would resign if it was determined he was unrightfully mayor.

“People were trying to do the best they can with what they have,” Palmer said. “You were all trying to do the by the village in this.”

Palmer then went through law and case law related to the issue with council before they rendered a decision. He discussed what requires one to become mayor and the definition of residency.

The attorney asked if the mayor had changed the county he’s registered to vote, if Radcliffe had changed his children’s school or if he had signed a long-term lease outside of the village. All of Radcliffe’s answers were no.

“I’m convinced with all your might that you have had a constant intention of returning,” Palmer said. “It is the opinion of the court that this means an elected official may in certain factual scenarios temporarily reside outside the corporate limits of the jurisdiction without jeopardizing his or her ability to remain in office.”

Millis said she wanted better communication from Radcliffe and to have been told about the move, as “it would have caused less hassles.”

The council then had a roll call vote on whether or not the mayor should resign. The majority vote was that Radcliffe should remain as mayor of North Fairfield.