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Willoughby Hills council calls for investigation of senior program

October 24, 2018 GMT

Willoughby Hills council calls for investigation of senior program

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio – Members of Willoughby Hills city council have called for an investigation into a former city-run program designed to help the city’s seniors.

Mayor Robert Weger says he welcomes the inquiry because he said it would clear his administration.

The council faction is led by John Plecnik, council’s vice president, and council member Laura Pizmoht. Both are attorneys.

The strongest allegations are that Gloria Majeski, the mayor’s executive assistant, profited from her association with the Willoughby Hills Isolated Senior Program for Everyday Relief (WHISPER).

Majeski said Wednesday evening that “all of the allegations are false.”

The claims came out in a 12-page press release from city council, which also says the mayor and one council member “appear to have personally profited from their involvement in WHISPER.”

Frank Brichacek, the city finance director, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the program began in 2009 and stopped when council voted to suspend it in February.

He said the program took in $31,822.  About $5,699 was from a grant and the rest came from donations and recycling revenue. The program spent $15,998 by the time council shut it down. A balance of $15,824 remains in the WHISPER account, Brichacek said.

Of the spent money, he said, Majeski was reimbursed $2,574 for out-of-pocket expenses.

The mayor said by phone that the program was audited five time by the state of Ohio since 2009, and the program passed all of them.

Brichacek said these were the city’s regular financial audits that occur every two years.

The mayor said that WHISPER began because of an 80-year-old resident whose house was in disrepair and had no working plumbing. The program was meant to help seniors who were similarly afflicted.

Brichacek, said the Gulick Family Trust contributed the $5,699.71 to the program. The Gulicks are Majeski’s relatives.

Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said in a letter to Pizmoht that much of council’s information “is in the form of unsubstantiated allegations with little or no specific facts. Therefore, the information provided is insufficient for a determination as to whether or not criminal or unethical activity occurred.”

The prosecutor went on to say that “enough suspicion is raised that further investigation should be undertaken by professional investigators.”

“I would recommend at a minimum that you ask the State Auditor’s Office to investigate the City of Willoughby Hills Whisper Account,” he said.

The struggle between the mayor and city council culminated earlier this month in Weger attempting to remove six of the seven-member council from office, only to have a court order their restoration. A hearing on the case is scheduled for next month.