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New mayor replaces city prosecutor
New mayor replaces city prosecutor
By SUE REID
Blair Melling, who has served the City of Solon for 22 years in the roles of assistant prosecutor, prosecutor and assistant law director, was not reappointed to the position.
Mayor Susan A. Drucker, who presided over her first City Council meeting Monday, requested the confirmation of compensation for her choice of Frank Gasper as the new city prosecutor.
A resident of Independence, Mr. Gasper is a former Maple Heights city councilman and served as assistant prosecutor for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas for 25 years. For seven of those years, he was head of the major trial division.
Mrs. Drucker said she made the appointment first and foremost because of Mr. Gasper's qualifications. He will receive a $30,000 annual salary and no health benefits. Mr. Melling, who received $60,000 annually, also had health benefits.
Mrs. Drucker said Mr. Melling is no longer employed by the city but does have the right to exercise his health benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, known as COBRA.
Mrs. Drucker said she is confident in Mr. Gasper's ability in serving the City of Solon. She also is bringing the salary where it should be, and it's comparable to other cities, she said.
Mr. Melling also served the city's planning commission but had been getting the $60,000 salary and benefits prior to that, she said.
"I didn't do it strictly because of the savings," she said. "Since I was bringing in someone new, I wanted to make sure the salary was in line with surrounding communities and what the position is worth," Mrs. Drucker said. "It's a new administration, and, basically, I'm looking at all the different positions and decided that was one I wanted to make a change."
Council did not need to confirm the mayoral appointment. However, it voted 4-2 to approve the compensation. Voting in favor of the compensation for the term from Dec. 1 to March 31, 2010, were Councilmen Lon D. Stolarsky, Edward H. Kraus, William I. Russo and William D. Mooney. Opposing it were Councilmen John T. Scott and Robert N. Pelunis.
Mr. Pelunis said Tuesday that he voted no, because he never received any type of resume regarding Mr. Gasper's qualifications.
"I understand from conversations I've had with other council members that the individual requested to be the interim prosecutor is qualified, but I never received any type of resume or anything else regarding his qualifications, and, more importantly, I never met him," Mr. Pelunis said. "I feel that it is important to know who's going to be representing the City of Solon and the residents in a prosecutorial capacity."
"It is my appointment," Mrs. Drucker said. All of the council members were told of it 2 1/2 weeks ago and were more then welcome to call her with any questions they had, she said.
Mrs. Drucker said that she had three weeks to set up her administration, which is not a lot of time.
"I want to make sure my appointments are solid," Mrs. Drucker said. "The positions of prosecutor and law director are temporary four-month appointments, which gives me the time necessary to make a regular, straight appointment within the four months."
Law Director David J. Matty's contract was extended four months until March 31, 2010, at the same pay rate.
"I'm starting a new administration and taking it step by step," Mrs. Drucker said. "We'll assess each department and personnel issues and make changes where I deem necessary. I'm giving careful thought to any moves I make."
In the position of prosecutor, Mr. Gasper will be on call to police officers and will work closely with them, as well as handle all of the city's court cases through Bedford Municipal Court. He will not serve on the planning commission, Mrs. Drucker said. Mr. Matty's office will cover those meetings, she said.
Mr. Gasper said Tuesday that being a prosecutor is an important function because of the law enforcement.
"I worked as a seasonal law-enforcement officer for the national parks, so I actually carried a gun and made arrests," Mr. Gasper said. "I understand the other side of the coin. Prosecutors should work hand in glove with police officers, and be available to them when there are issues coming up.
"We're a partnership," Mr. Gasper said. "Our job is to keep the city safe."
Mr. Gasper also served under the Medina County Prosecutor for 3 1/2 years in both the civil and criminal divisions. He is police-officer-academy trained and certified in arrests, search, seizures and search warrants.
Mr. Gasper had a 20-year teaching career in police academies at Case Western Reserve University and Cuyahoga Community College. He is in private practice in Medina. He earned his law degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School.
Solon Police Chief Wayne Godzich said he appreciated Mr. Melling's 22 years of service to his department. He said he knows Mr. Gasper and he will do a good job as well.
Mr. Russo also said he wanted to thank Mr. Melling for his "outstanding service to the City of Solon."
Mr. Scott also sent him his best wishes. "As we all know, life moves on and I'm sure the new prosecutor will serve with the same dignity as Mr. Melling," he said.
Mr. Kraus said Mr. Gasper is a "veteran prosecutor" and will do a good job for the city.
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