NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) — Former City Councilman Adam Zimmermann said he’s lived in the same house for 17 years. It just happens to be next to the Newton Falls Municipal Building.
Last November, he started posting signs criticizing city leadership. He said a new $10,000 fence the city installed this year is meant to cover his signs and infringe on his First Amendment rights — but the city manager who had it installed disagrees.
“They rip down a perfectly good chain link fence and installed this fence to just kind of hide the signs that we have out here,” Zimmermann said.
Mayor Ken Kline said he is shocked to hear anyone is displeased with the fence.
“It was put up for the purpose of privacy for the seniors that meet there each and every day and that was — that was really just a nice gesture, I was surprised to hear anything negative about that at all,” Kline said.
City Manager Pamela Priddy says seniors with SCOPE who use the municipal building complained about Zimmermann’s property.
“There were a number of different seniors that had come up and were complaining about the signs being there, the barking dog, the laundry,” Priddy said.
Zimmermann was sent a letter stating his signs were in violation of a City Ordinance and needed to be removed.
“I argue that I won that case against the planning and zoning commission,” Zimmermann said.
The city put landscaping fabric over the chain link fence but Zimmermann said it only lasted one day because of the wind. Next came the privacy fence, which Priddy said she paid for by taking a lesser salary.
“I was asked to, you know, volunteer my time for like a 30 to 60 day period and it ended up being 10 months and I applied for the position just like everyone else. But at that time I had said that if I get the job I want, you know, the fence put up for the privacy for the seniors and I will reduce my salary,” Priddy said.
Zimmermann filed a public records request for payroll deductions or other files that show Priddy is paying for the fence. He was told no such records exist.
“I’m the lowest-paid supervisor in the entire city. You know everyone else’s, you know, $72,000-plus and I’m $60,000. Wasn’t sure at the time how much the fence was going to cost,” Priddy said.