Port Jefferson Council discusses council member’s residency


By Charlotte Caldwell

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PORT JEFFERSON — The Port Jefferson Village Council discussed a council member’s eligibility to remain on the council due to his place of residence at a meeting on Feb. 5.

According to the meeting minutes read at the meeting, in January the council had two vacancies. They nominated Krystal Cox — a previous council member — for one position with four affirming votes from council members. Jamie Long was nominated for the second position and the council had a discussion on whether or not he lives in the village. The vote to appoint him ended with two council members for and two against but the council appointed him anyway. Both are four-year terms ending in 2027. The council also approved Long as the president of the council, but Mayor Steve Butterfield never swore him in as president.

The meeting started with a continuing discussion about whether Long is a resident of the village. His residency is in question because he’s a truck driver and frequently sleeps while he travels, and the property he owns in Port Jefferson does not have a home on it currently.

Butterfield reached out to the village solicitor, William Zimmerman Jr., and the solicitor cited Ohio Revised Code 731.12 which states, “Each member of the legislative authority of a village shall have resided in the village one year immediately preceding the member’s election, and shall be an elector of the village.” Long voted in the Nov. 7, 2023 general election and his address registered with the board of elections is 106 Wall St. in Port Jefferson.

Council members debated about what it means to be a resident. Some thought it’s where someone gets their mail delivered, and some thought it was where the person slept.

Long said Butterfield had five months to address the problem of residency but didn’t. He said he went to council meetings for five months asking them where they were at on it and Butterfield kept saying he would have to look into it.

Long requested his dismissal in writing if the council decided to vacate his council seat because of Ohio Revised Code 731.45, which states, “The legislative authority of a municipal corporation shall determine its own rules and keep a journal of its proceedings. It may punish or expel any member for disorderly conduct or violation of its rules, and declare his seat vacant for absence without valid excuse, where such absence has continued for two months. No expulsion shall take place without the concurrence of two thirds of all the members elected, and until the delinquent member has been notified of the charge against him and has had an opportunity to be heard.”

Councilmember Greg Freistuhler made a motion and Councilmember Loretta Cook seconded to vacate the seat due to what the village solicitor said. Freistuhler removed the motion after Butterfield proposed waiting a month until the village solicitor can be present at March’s meeting to determine what the council should do. All council members approved of waiting to vacate Long’s seat.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the village fire contract;

• Adopted an ordinance allowing a maximum of 48 hours of street parking in the village and declaring an emergency. This was due to a trailer parked in the village that doesn’t move;

• Adopted an ordinance, effective Jan. 1 2024, paying council members $45 for a regular meeting when attended. There will be no payment for special meetings or committee meetings. If a council member misses two meetings in a row the seat will be vacated according to the Ohio Revised Code;

• Approved the Shelby County Board of Elections polling location in the village. The Board of Elections will pay $150 per day to use the building for elections throughout the year;

• Approved the village appropriations for the year;

• Approved leaving $50,000 in Chase Bank and transferring $60,000 to Farmers & Merchants Bank.

The next council meeting will be held on March 4 at 7 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Community Center.

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