Wickliffe residents submit petition to recall mayor John Barbish

Barbish calls group "vocal minority"
Posted at 5:01 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 18:46:19-04

WICKLIFFE, Ohio — The mayor of Wickliffe is defending his track record as folks there push for his removal from office.

More than 800 people have signed a petition requesting a special election to recall John Barbish.

"You can take two years and go around and get 900 signatures, that doesn't mean I'm going to quit,” said Barbish.

Barbish said he isn’t surprised there’s a vocal minority pushing for him to be ousted.

"Being a young mayor and being very aggressive, I made a lot of changes," said Barbish.

Among them: closing a city pool for one year and ending leaf pick-up.

"Those two issues combined really just outraged a lot of folks," said Barbish.

Prior to that, Barbish had already found himself in the spotlight for ordering the police chief to stop issuing citations and confiscating small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

"It's 2020, it's not 1920 anymore. We've got to start being a little bit more open-minded. You deal with 12,000 people, not everyone is going to like you," said Barbish.

Barbish said it was legally within his rights to change the city's stance.

"They make it seem like I'm telling the police chief every day don't enforce this, don't enforce that, disregard all these laws," said Barbish.

Police Chief Randy Ice said that's not the case and initially he was upset with the change on marijuana. He said there's been no noticeable impact since the mayor's directive.

"I can tell you it had absolutely no effect on the police department's ability to use the odor of marijuana to search a car or a person," said Ice.

It was the marijuana issue that Wickliffe resident Dan Cable said motivated him to mobilize an effort to recall Barbish.

“We've been doing this for close to nine months. He's an autocrat, he makes really poor decisions and he wastes money," said Cable.

Cable has helped collect 881 signatures to secure a special election so residents can vote Barbish out of office.

"In theory, we could have the election December 8 and that would be a nice Christmas gift for the City of Wickliffe,” said Cable.

It's not just cable who told News 5 that the will of the people in Wickliffe is being ignored.

"Their opinions and their concerns aren't being understood or respected," said Ed Levon.

Levon is Wickliffe city council president.

"I'm concerned it puts a little black eye on the city," said Levon.

Levon described city council's relationship with Barbish as "strained."

"I think this reaffirms you have to listen to your constituents," said Levon.

Despite giving him the money to maintain services residents rely on, Levon said the mayor moved forward with plans to shutter the pool and scrap leaf pick-up despite council objecting.

"It's not often you see a mayor receive money and not using it,” said Levon.

Barbish said he’s the one who makes the final call – not council.

"They can have their opinions on day-to-day operations, but again per the charter, that's up to my sole discretion," said Barbish.

If the recall election attempt is unsuccessful, Barbish said he has no plans to step down.

"I want us to all work together. At this point, I probably will run again because I want to see these projects through. I haven't done anything illegal, I'm not embezzling money. Recalling an elected official should be reserved for actions such as that," said Barbish.

On Monday afternoon, Barbish told News 5 that there are mistakes on several pages of the petition which would invalidate those entire pages of signatures.

Meantime, he did just revise his stance on leaf pick-up in the City of Wickliffe.

Crews will offer the service on specific dates with three sweeps around the city.