Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the interview times of the Board of Municipal Utilities candidates.
To fill the vacancy after the resignation of former member Ian Hessel, the Avon Lake Board of Municipal Utilities will interview candidates in a public session.
The board met in a work session after its regular Feb. 3 meeting to discuss how to move forward with the appointment process. The board has 30 days from Hessel’s resignation on Jan. 31 to fill the vacancy. Otherwise, the city’s charter states the mayor would then decide who gets the seat.
As of the Feb. 4 filing deadline with the Lorain County Board of Elections, five nonboard-member residents filed their petitions to run for the board: former candidate C.J. Tyree, Thomas Ansell, Dana Schnabel, former board member Tony Abram and former Mayor Rob Berner.
The board wants to make its decision at its Feb. 17 meeting, board Chairman John Dzwonczyk said in an interview. The goal is to interview the seven candidates before that, he said, so the board doesn’t have to hold a special meeting. The board will interview Berner in a special meeting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday and Tyree, Schnabel, Ansell and Abram at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
The three board members at the work session, Dzwonczyk, Tim Rush and Dave Rickey, each expressed interest in holding the candidate interviews in open session rather than in executive session, which is closed to the public.
“I don’t see any reason the public can’t be there,” Dzwonczyk said. “It’s different from a job interview or a regular job where you expect privacy there. This is a public position. I think whatever is discussed with the individuals is a matter of interest to the public in general.”
Holding the interviews in public is a change in procedure for the board. When the board appointed Rickey in May 2014 after then-Chairman Dave Marquard retired, the candidate interviews were conducted in executive session even after it was publicized the interviews would be in public. Prior to that, the board publicly interviewed candidates and appointed Hessel in 2012 following the retirement of then-Chairman Chuck Whitmer.
The board will ask the candidates to let the board meet with each candidate individually while the others wait their turn before the board, he said. Because it’s a public meeting, the board cannot bar the other candidates from attending, but as a matter of courtesy toward the other candidates, the board will ask them for their cooperation.
During the interviews, board members will ask the candidates about the types of things they would face while holding the position, he said, and they won’t ask personal questions. The board members will move into executive session after the interviews to discuss the candidates, he said, and then vote in public session to appoint the new member.
“The board is, I hope, going to choose the candidate who is the most suited, and hopefully we’ll withstand the election process and everything will come out on the other side good,” he said.
Avon Lake Regional Water Chief Utilities Executive Todd Danielson said the board will interview all the candidates who expressed interest to the board as well as submitted petitions to the Lorain County Board of Elections to become official candidates in the fall election. He is working with the board to set up a day for the board to interview all the candidates, he said, possibly Feb. 16.