McKenzie confirmed to Coal Grove council

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2024

Holmes objects to choice for filling his former council seat

COAL GROVE — If those attending the first meeting of Coal Grove Village Council for 2024 on Thursday thought there was going to be a honeymoon period for the new year, following the swearing-in of a new mayor, they were proven wrong within a few minutes.

Just after Andy Holmes took the oath of office, a dispute erupted regarding the filling of his former council seat.

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Holmes, who was elected in 2023 after five years on village council, had just taken his seat and was moving onto the first order of business, setting times for council meetings, when council member Kimberly McKnight asked to change those plans and first fill the council seat the mayor had vacated.

McKnight said the replacement should have a say in matters such as meeting times.

Holmes then agreed to postpone that business to fill the council seat, for which the term ends in 2025.

Council member Denise Paulus then put forward the nomination of Kelli McMackin, which was seconded by Greg Massie.

The council then voted on the nomination, with Paulus voting yes, McKnight voting no, and Massie, Robin Heaberlin and Phil Roush abstaining.

The 1-1 vote with abstentions meant the motion failed.

McKnight then nominated Mike McKenzie, a businessman who unsuccessfully ran against Holmes in last year’s contentious race for mayor.

Holmes immediately objected to this nomination and asked for debate on the matter.

Holmes stated that the nomination of McKenzie was only aimed at creating “turmoil” and stated that McKenzie had not filed his personal income taxes to the village for several years.

“Is this really the kind of leader you want for this village?” he asked.

Holmes stated, as a council member, the information was available to him about which residents had filed taxes.

“Whether or not someone has filed for taxes is available,” he said. “It’s just a conversation with the tax clerk about who has filed and who hasn’t. I’ve had that conversation about Mr. McKenzie and others. I know that Mr. McKenzie hasn’t. I know that we have a document on record where we sent him in 2012 requesting him to start paying his taxes. So I’m asking this group, again, is this really the kind of leader you want for this village?”

McKnight took issue with Holmes stating she wanted to create issues.

“As far as you saying ‘turmoil,’ that’s really not what I nominated him for,” she said. “My request is he did have a lot of support. He did have a lot of good ideas.”

Holmes was asked if the village would continue to pursue McKenzie on the tax issue.

“As the mayor, I will continue to pursue anyone who neglects to pay their taxes,” Holmes said. “And Mike is in that category.”

Massie then stated that McKenzie was present at the meeting and asked that he be recognized to speak, which Holmes agreed to.

“One – I did come over here — She’s got all the records there,” McKenzie said of paperwork McKnight held. “Nobody knows what I owed. There’s receipts where I had paid my taxes. There’s Coal Grove village receipts right there, so there it is.”

“Of course we don’t know how much you owed,” Holmes shot back. “You haven’t filed.”

Holmes also said there was a difference between taxes McKenzie had paid for his company, as opposed to the personal income tax.

“We’re not interested in what his business does,” Holmes said. “We’re interested in Mike McKenzie’s income.”

The council then voted on the motion for McKenzie’s nomination, which passed, 3-2, with McKnight, Roush and Massie voting yes and Paulus and Heaberlin voting no.

“You’ve been nominated to be appointed to this seat, we have JT here,” Holmes said. “If you ‘d like to go ahead and swear in, we can certainly do that.”

McKenzie was then immediately sworn in by village solicitor JT Holt.

Following the meeting, Holmes spoke with The Tribune about the dispute.

He noted that, in addition to McMackin, there was another person present at the meeting who was interested in the seat, Jacob Travis.

Holmes said that both of them had spoken with him prior to the meeting, but McKenzie had not.

He said that, now that McKenzie is on council, he intends to work with him.

“He has been sworn in as a council member and I do plan on working with him,” Holmes said. “There are two years on the term and I want to focus on getting things done with him as a council member.”

Holmes stated he had wanted open debate on the matter and that he could have ruled McKnight out of order, or refused to recognize McKenzie to speak, but he had not done so.

The Tribune also contacted McKnight following the meeting.

She stated that she had two reasons for motivating for nominating McKenzie.

She said he had received significant support in his mayoral campaign from voters and that should be respected.

McKnight also said that a major criticism of McKenzie during the campaign was that he had not held a political office before and that a seat on the council could give him needed experience.

“I thought it would be nice to give him that,” she said.

She again took issue with Holmes’ comments at the meeting that her motivation was to “create turmoil.”

“That’s not what I’m about,” she said, stating she hoped to “bring people together” and accomplish things for the village.. 

As to the issue of McKenzie’s taxes, McKnight said she was “not privy” to that information.

McKenzie spoke with The Tribune on Monday.

He said that those who did not want him on council were “badgering” him on his taxes.

McKenzie says as a “self provider,” He does not get a W-2 form and has his business taxes for M&R Auto Care, prepared through an accountant and is then given a “lost profit form,” which he said he attempted to pay with the village, but was told they did not know how to accept it. He said he also provided McKnight with copies of receipts paid to Coal Grove.

He said Holmes had “slandered” him and that he was speaking with an attorney.

As for the future, McKenzie said “I do want to get along with everyone.”

“But, evidentially, they don’t,” he said.

As for his priorities in the seat, McKenzie stated he hopes to work with the others on issues such as the upcoming roundabout construction in the village, and improving services and veterans for seniors.

In other business, the council:

• Accepted the rosters for the police and fire departments.

• Chose Massie as mayor pro tempore.

• Made amendments to village appropriation to pay for a police cruiser, which was totaled in an accident. Holmes stated the other driver was found at fault and that the village will be reimbursed by insurance.

• Sat meeting times for the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 6 p.m.

– Paulus and Heaberlin, who were re-elected in 2023, were sworn in for new terms at the beginning of the meeting.