(Updated at 9:18am, 07-01-13)
|Amalia Diaz (right) reacts after learning that trustee Teresia Buck revealed she had previously been charged with a felony during the town hall meeting at Perrysburg Heights. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - Voices were raised and tears were shed Sunday as a meeting of the Perrysburg Heights Community Association at times turned into a bickering match.
The event, a town hall and board meeting, was held in the gymnasium of the PCHA's community center and was attended by about 40 people, including media.
"I'm listening to this, you guys got a big struggle ahead," said Charles Manly, a former PHCA board member, near the end of the meeting.
PHCA Vice President, and current acting president, Steven Kramer opened the meeting with exhortations to calm and courtesy.
"I'm an optimist. I hope there's no swearing or yelling or the like. We all have our differences, but let's all be respectful of each other."
He further announced that the Ohio's South of the Border Festival, held in the Heights for the past 19 years, will go on this year, though in a somewhat different form.
"There will be a festival," he said, noting that the event has been renamed the Perrysburg Mexican-American Festival, and will be held Aug. 10 from noon to midnight. There will be free admission, with parking costing $2.
The town hall meeting, starting at 2 p.m., was to allow attendees to voice their opinions without interruption from board members, who sat at a table in the front of the gymnasium. A Wood County Sheriff's Deputy was present in the room throughout the event.
Amalia Diaz, a former Heights resident, noting that she was neutral, told the board that they were in violation of their bylaws in holding the meeting, and that the meeting itself was invalid. She also voiced opposition to the dismissal of Anita Serda from the board in May, stating that "the meeting was not legally held, either."
Serda, a former PHCA executive director, was reportedly voted off the board during an executive session. She previously stated she was also asked not to continue as the festival's coordinator. Her daughter, Stephanie Serda, resigned as executive director in June due to a reportedly contentious working relationship with PHCA treasurer Jason Craig.
Craig was absent from the meeting. A petition seeking his ouster from the board is reportedly in circulation and was mentioned during the meeting.
"In my opinion, the entire board needs a fresh start, needs a fresh beginning with people whose intentions are right before the community," said Diaz.
"My intentions are pure and right," she said. "I'm here for the kids."
Stacy Paige, also a former Heights resident, rose to speak, noting concerns about Serda's ouster and that minutes were not produced from the last board meeting.
"It seems like a runaway train that's off course," she said of the board.
Martha Ledesma, a past PHCA president, said she had "sought legal assistance to null any action taking place here today," and potentially past actions of the board.
Gloria Martinez, Serda's sister, further took up her cause. Noting Serda's skills and contributions to the organization, she said "that was a big loss. I would like to have the board reconsider to have her re-involved," which drew applause from the audience.
"I just want us all to get along," said Heights resident Susan Craig. "Let's just agree to disagree and get along with the show."
Ramon Perez, of the Latino Alliance of Toledo, saying that the board seemed to "operate in violation of its own bylaws," said that his organization feels that "any further business being conducted is null and void" unless they can vet the operation.
During the meeting, Kramer indicated that a man seated at the board table, David Humbarger, had been removed from the board previously and didn't know why he was seated there.
The matter became a contentious issue during the meeting, as the vote to remove Humbarger reportedly took place during a period when the batteries had run out of a device used to record the meeting, and was not recorded.
Diaz asked why Humbarger was removed. Was it "something major that should call for the removal of a board member?" she asked.
Kramer indicated that Humbarger was voted off due to a lack of attendance at meetings, and later read a letter drafted on the subject.
The meeting briefly grew contentious over the issue, with order restored by secretary Chico Martinez.
During the board meeting following the town hall, Kramer fielded questions about whether, because there were no approved minutes of the last meeting, the actions of the board at that time were null and void. He said they were not.
Further contention erupted around issues related to that matter as well.
Kramer sent around a list for individuals to sign up if they were interested in filling a seat on the board, noting that applicants can't have been convicted of a felony, must be bondable, and must have a reasonable credit rating.
"I guess I have to leave," said member Teresia Buck. "I've been charged with a felony."
In an exchange with Kramer, Buck, whose term of office was reportedly up Sunday, asked what Kramer had said when she revealed the matter to him last week.
"I told you to keep it to yourself for now," he said, drawing raised shouts from the audience.
Buck left the board table, and stood in the doorway of the gymnasium near the table for a few minutes before leaving. She returned to the table area near the end of the board meeting.
Perrysburg Municipal court indicates three criminal charges in 1990 were filed against Buck for passing bad checks. However, online court records show that no further action was taken after the case was filed.
During the board meeting, a large number of attendees left, leaving only about 13 attendees and media by the meeting's end, though a number did file back in just minutes before the meeting adjourned.
"I'm sad that so many people left, because I want people to know that, as a board, we do want the community center to succeed," said board member Amanda Becerra.
"We have so many ideas, and I don't think people understand that, in the past, so many of our ideas were shot down."
At one point, board member Teresa Martinez, broke into tears over words allegedly said to her by departing attendees. She briefly left the gymnasium and returned a few moments later.
The board was to go into executive session following the board meeting to discuss items brought up during the town hall meeting.