GOP leader wants Salem answers

By D.A. Wilkinson

Johnson wants to see how seriously city council investigated whether the safety director’s job should be abolished.

SALEM — David Johnson, the Columbiana County Republican Party chairman, is investigating council with an eye toward removing Democratic Party members involved in the elimination of the city’s safety director position.

Johnson has filed an extensive list of public information he wants from council as to how thoroughly it checked with other communities before deciding the safety director’s job was not needed.

In response to council’s action, Republican Mayor Jerry Wolford and Service Director Steven Andres created a new safety service position for former Republican Councilman Greg Oesch.

But Democrat Councilman Justin Palmer said that the new position won’t be funded and that Oesch can work for free if he so chooses.

But Johnson said Friday, “I am calling upon Councilmen Clyde Brown and Justin Palmer to come clean with the citizens of Salem on the matter of their alleged ‘extensive’ investigation of area municipalities as it relates to the elimination of Salem’s safety director position.”

Brown chaired a committee that contacted other communities and asked officials a series of questions about their chain of command. The committee found many communities don’t have a safety director, but Johnson has tried to focus on whether committee members talked to one Republican mayor.

Palmer pointed out he was not a member of the committee.

Brown said, “I understand why Mr. Johnson is upset. He really wanted to keep Mr. Oesch as Salem city safety director, but now it is time to move on to other more important issues.”

But Johnson said he was seeking answers “as to, if, how, and/or when this so-called investigation was conducted. I am also seeking other pertinent records, which, all combined, will be necessary for a determination of whether or not there has been any official misfeasance on the part of these city councilmen.”

He hopes the records he’s requested from council “will more clearly illuminate what many already suspect: that there either is no ‘written report’ or that it is a report that is not substantiated by reliable and measurable empirical data.”

Johnson, a Salem resident, said depending on his findings, he may file a lawsuit in county probate court against certain council members for misfeasance in office, and/or the recall of certain council members for gross neglect and dereliction of duty.

The chairman said Brown and Palmer were attempting to undermine Wolford.

After taking over, Oesch said he had found a number of problems in the police and fire departments.

Palmer pointed out, however, the city had a Republican administration for 12 years before Wolford took office.

“Due to the safety director’s position being eliminated, Salem saves a little money, there is one less bureaucrat in Salem City Hall, and the mayor gets a direct line of communication with the safety forces,” Brown added.