This wasn’t your typical Akron City Council meeting.
Mayor Don Plusquellic faced off against his arch nemesis, attorney Warner Mendenhall. An Akron councilman acknowledged being fearful for his family over threats made by a homeowner. And, that homeowner was left shouting as the heated meeting adjourned.
“You failed ...” shouted homeowner Larry Modic, whose ongoing housing dispute with the city caused the strife at the meeting.
Some of Modic’s supporters persuaded him to quell his comments as the meeting drew to an end.
Modic, a veteran, bought a house in Akron last May without knowing the home had been in violation of the city’s housing regulations for more than nine years and was nearing the point of being demolished. In his frustration, he threatened several city officials. Earlier this month, police took him into custody without incident. They later found loaded weapons in his home.
Modic now is taking the fight to spare his home into court.
Several people spoke on Modic’s behalf during the public comment period, including Timothy Morrison, a veteran from Springfield Township. He told council he didn’t know Modic, but felt compelled to come to council to support him.
“Everybody needs a break,” he said.
Mendenhall, who is representing Modic and led a failed recall attempt against Plusquellic in 2009, urged the city to fix up more homes, rather than demolishing them. He claimed the city is not “following its own rules, regulations and laws.”
Modic told council the welcome he’s received since buying a home in Akron has been “deplorable.”
“I just didn’t deserve this,” said Modic, who wore a black leather jacket and an 82nd Airborne baseball cap.
Plusquellic said the city has to consider the overall good of its neighborhoods when making decisions on housing issues.
“An abandoned house affects everyone in a neighborhood,” he said.
Plusquellic said the city also has an “obligation to abide by the law.”
“You’re not following the law,” Mendenhall yelled from the audience.
“Pay your taxes,” Plusquellic, who had sat down by this point, responded.
“I do,” answered Mendenhall, who says he is working on repaying back state and federal taxes he owes.
Councilman Mike Freeman, who was among those Modic threatened, addressed him directly during the meeting, telling him he was fearful for the safety of his family.
“I withheld this from my wife,” he said. “I didn’t want to instill fear in her.”
Council will be talking more about the housing issue, with Plusquellic and council President Garry Moneypenny introducing legislation Monday that would require a seller to give a homebuyer written notification of any housing and zoning violations. Failure to do so would be a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
Plusquellic encouraged council members to discuss the penalty and whether it should be more or less stringent.
Moneypenny, a retired chief deputy with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said he favors a stiffer penalty and wants the legislation to apply to homes that formerly were used as methamphetamine labs. He said he is encouraging council members to give him their input and get their questions on the legislation answered in the next week, with the intent of voting on it Monday.
“We want to make sure there are no other victims of this kind of thing,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.