(WKBN) – A Newton Falls councilwoman is facing complaints about “inappropriate behavior,” and according to the city’s mayor, this isn’t the first time.
Sandra Breymaier is accused of making an obscene gesture toward a resident and calling Mayor Kenneth Kline a dumba** after Monday’s council meeting via Zoom was adjourned.
First News called Breymaier. She declined to answer specific questions but said her actions Monday were misinterpreted and that she was pointing at something in the room and talking to another person, who was in the room with her.
Kline said the complaints are problematic, though the majority of the council, including Breymaier, voted that the first complaint was not an issue.
“You don’t always have to get along,” Kline said. “You have conflict in any group, especially when you’re trying to make decisions, and that’s fine, but you treat each other with respect, and you learn from your differences. You don’t come at somebody just because they’re not on the same page as you.”
Laura Neiheisel, a resident of the city, said she and others have started a petition to remove Breymaier from council and will turn it into the city clerk soon.
“We want to have the ability to revote on it if we want her to be a councilperson going forward,” Neiheisel said. “Newton Falls doesn’t want to be the source of comedic, political entertainment. That’s not our goal.”
First News reached out to each councilperson. John Baryak said this issue has come up in the past but says it’s hard to discern what happened during Monday’s meeting.
“Whether it was before or after the meeting, I don’t know if we can prove it or not prove it,” Baryak said.
Councilwoman Tesa Spletzer caught a glimpse of the supposed obscene gesture. She said Breymaier and the resident who was speaking before she allegedly did it have had issues with each other in the past. Spletzer also said it seemed like Breymaier’s comment at the end of the meeting was intended for the mayor.
“I don’t know who could possibly confirm or deny her account of the situation, but I know that it certainly came across to those of us on the other side of the screen. Her comment was directed toward the mayor, just after he finished speaking,” Spletzer said.
Councilman Tarry Alberini said he heard the comment at the end of the meeting but doesn’t think it was directed at anyone on council or the chairman. He thinks it’s been taken out of context, saying he didn’t see any type of obscene gesture made by her or anyone on council.
“The challenging thing with these Zoom meetings is Zoom has made it easier to communicate with each of us, whether it’s in a public meeting or a corporate business level, but sometimes Zoom doesn’t always work in the clarity of what you see,” Alberini said.
Alberini also said he disagreed with the past complaint filed because they are at the mercy of the chairman running the meeting and the individuals calling in. He went on to say that as elected officials, they are faced with a barrage of insults and accusations that have nothing to do with their positions.
“I think the frustration arises that the chairman just has to do a better job of controlling the meeting, and he needs to work on that,” Alberini said.
The chairman of the council meetings is Mayor Kline.
Councilman Adam Zimmermann said he also didn’t see any obscene gesture and that Breymaier isn’t the type to do that, especially during a meeting. He said if she did make a motion, it wasn’t in an obscene nature.
Zimmermann also said he can’t be sure who the comment at the end of the meeting was directed at but was surprised to hear it.
“If you’ve seen the meetings, you’ve seen the frustration that some of us feel about what’s being said during the meetings. It’s possible that something could be said off-cuff at the end of a meeting and not necessarily be directed at the person who everyone thinks it’s directed at,” Zimmermann said. “It seems like there’s a certain group of people that just want to harass us and then trap us into saying things and kind of leading us on, and it’s the same group of people over, and over, and over again, so there is a frustration level present.”
He also said he doesn’t condone that sort of behavior from those on council, whether during a meeting or not.
The complaint will be on the agenda for the March 15 meeting, which will be streamed on the city’s Facebook page.
If Breymaier is found to have made the gesture, she will receive a verbal, public warning that will go on the public record.