NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio — Adam Mazur of Newburgh Heights has filed a petition with Cuyahoga County to recall Newburgh Heights’ Mayor Trevor Elkins.
“There seems to be a lot of discontentment here in the village, a lot of problems that different people have for different reasons,” said Mazur.
Mazur said one of the reasons for the recall petition is what he referred to as "impropriety in regard to the selective enforcement of local building ordinances."
Mazur said in his short amount of time as a Newburgh Heights resident he has been subjected to several random inspections at his home. Mazur said he moved into his rental unit at the start of 2020.
“In the first few months of the year, I was searched three times,” he said.
Mazur said after the third inspection, he sent an email to village leaders asking why numerous inspections was necessary but never got a response.
“They came back again and during this last and final search, I was harassed, I was taunted, they took a photo of my personal possessions and they took a photo of me, personally, standing in my kitchen and I have a hard time seeing how that is related to any type of building inspection,” he said.
His neighbor Brenda Lucas said she, too, has had several inspections at her home. She is also a renter.
“They’ve said stuff like 'Those clothes shouldn’t be on the floor,’ I mean it’s none of their business,” she said. “They’ve said the stuff around my basement, that it shouldn’t be against the wall. It’s just stuff that they shouldn’t be worried about, that’s what they’re worried about.”
Kenneth Nehez, a 20-year resident of Newburgh Heights, said he has heard similar stories from many other villagers.
“They all feel that the building department is bullying them into selling their properties, being nitpicked to death by permits and hassled to the point to where people just go ‘I’m just going to sell that place,’” he said.
Nehez thinks the reason behind the inspections is to force renters out of the village.
“Number one, to get younger people in here who are going to be paying more RITA taxes. Number two, going to be paying higher property taxes,” he said. “It really is a sad situation.”
But Mayor Trevor Elkins said that is not the case and that the recall petition is due to a disgruntled group of landlords who are upset that the village is enforcing codes for the health and safety of the residents.
“We started to have to engage the law and engage the prosecutor’s office in mandating these very, very small number of individuals to follow through with permitting inspections and going through the health and safety standard they’re supposed to go through and they decided to engage in a public smear campaign,” he said.
Mazur said he doesn’t believe the property owners in the village have a problem with buildings being up to code.
“It’s particularly bad with one village, to the point where so many people are speaking up and so may people are so upset about it, at some point, you have to say ‘Well maybe there really is something going on there’,” he said.
The petition also cited Elkin’s misuse of $134,000 of campaign funds to cover personal expenses that date back to 2015. Elkins has admitted to violating the rule and said he didn’t know about it.
“From day one I have taken responsibility for making that mistake,” he said. “I’m not being accused of having money missing, I’m being accused of having filed incorrectly.”
The Ohio Elections Commission voted to refer the misuse of funds to a prosecutor earlier this year and Elkins was fined.
“There isn’t a dime of money missing,” he said. “I was supposed to know the rule, I didn’t, so I will pay those consequences, but you don’t get to paint me as a thief because that’s not the case.”
Elkins is hopeful that while Mazur and other residents gather signatures, the majority of Newburgh Heights residents stand by the work he has done for the village.
“I will share with the public my record as the mayor over the past almost 10 years because it is a darn good one,” he said. “The disgruntled tend to be the loudest.”
In order to force a recall election in Ohio, there needs to be 15% of the total votes cast at the most recent election. Mazur said he needs 106 signatures and will bring the petition door-to-door. If enough signatures are secured, election officials must set the date for the recall election between 30 and 40 days later.
“My hope is to force a new election and have a candidate run against Trevor who can beat him,” said Mazur.
Elkins said it’s their democratic right to file a recall petition, but he is prepared to stand against it.
“This group of individuals has the democratic right to pursue the means they feel is necessary, and I’m okay with that. I also have the democratic right to defend myself and to take my record to the public,” he said.