Village Officials and Park Board Members Disagree with Forest Council Decision to Re-Open Parks

Officials in Forest oppose the decision by Village Council to re-open parks within the village despite an order from the Governor of Ohio, Ohio Department of Health and the Kenton-Hardin Health Department that they remain closed.

Officials including Mayor Dean Hankins, Village Administrator Chase Fletcher, Chief of Police Donald Southward and Fire Chief Douglas Hankins, signed a letter stating they do not agree with Council’s decision and will continue to abide by and enforce the orders given by the state.

The letter concludes that their opposition is based on the fact that they are bound to follow rules and laws of the State of Ohio and have the responsibility for the safety and well-being of the citizens of Forest.

This is Mayor Hankins written statement to WKTN regarding Council’s action:

Village of Forest Council, on May 14th, with 4 to 1 vote and one vote not audible due to electronic media complications, directed the opening of the village parks and to disregard Ohio and Hardin County Health Department regulations as well as their Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution of the State of Ohio and Ohio law, against the advise of Jason Miller, Village of Forest Law Director .

The Village of Forest Parks have never been closed. However the playground equipment were taped off and marked closed, and basketball rims removed when residents would not comply with social distancing.

The Mayor did not convene any after hours Park Board Meeting, however Park Board Members who were monitoring the council meeting approached the Mayor who was already consulting, legal counsel, and themselves convened an Emergency Meeting and decided in opposition of disobeying Health Department Regulations, and therefore Ohio Law by opening the closed playground equipment. This action was placed in writing by the Parks and Recreation Board and signed by all members. All Service and Safety Department Heads, who were also monitoring the meeting contacted the Mayor as well, and also placed their opposition to this illegal action in writing. Original copies of both letters area on file with the Village Clerk.

The Mayor will not, nor will I direct any employee to violate Ohio and Hardin Health Department Regulations or Ohio Law.

After Council’s vote to open public parks, the Park and recreation Board held an emergency meeting, during which park board members voted unanimously to not support Council’s vote.

In a letter drafted by Park Board members, they state:

“It is the intention of the Park Board to adhere to and enforce the laws and directives set forth by the State of Ohio and the Kenton-Hardin Health Department.”

The letter was signed by the Park Board members.