ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams has filed a public records request with his fellow county commissioners, demanding the emails Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski exchanged with each other, county Administrator Jim Cordes and their assistants.
Williams’ request covers emails sent and received between Oct. 22 and Thursday.
Williams, the lone Republican commissioner, said he took the unusual step of making the public records request because he’s trying to determine whether Kalo and Kokoski, both Democrats, are trying to undermine the involvement of other public officials, including Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda, in an effort to relocate Amtrak train service to the Lorain County Transportation Center in downtown Elyria.
He said he had organized a meeting last month with various public officials to tour the facility and had asked the county’s special projects director, Karen Davis, to attend. But he said Davis canceled at the last minute so she could attend a meeting with an acoustical engineer to discuss addressing sound issues during events at the former train depot.
Williams said he suspects that his fellow commissioners may have ordered Davis not to attend the meeting. He said he hasn’t asked Kalo and Kokoski directly about his suspicions because of recent clashes and because they have excluded him from meetings in the past.
“I’m probably not going to get a straight answer by asking them,” Williams said.
Kalo and Kokoski both said they weren’t trying to sabotage any effort to bring train service back to the Elyria station, something they said they have been working on for years and continue to support.
“I think Mr. Williams is suffering from a very bad case of paranoia,” Kalo said.
Kalo also said he thinks Davis had a previous commitment and couldn’t attend Williams’ event, but he had nothing to do with that decision.
He said he plans to ask Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes to review Williams’ public records request to see if it’s overly broad.
Kokoski said she’s surprised Williams is so interested in the Transportation Center, which has been extensively renovated over the past decade using federal money, because he’s long advocated selling the facility. She said she welcomes his support.
Williams said he doesn’t oppose having a train station in Elyria. He said he takes issue with the current use of the building, which largely serves as a community center and event venue.
“Either make it a transportation center or sell it and get out of the catering business,” he said.
Kokoski said she, too, believes Williams has become increasingly paranoid and political since the November election, when she and Kalo won new four-year terms. She pointed to a recent contentious battle in which she and Kalo voted to lay off the commissioners’ assistants over Williams’ objections.
During that debate, Williams said the only person he trusted in county government was his assistant, Neil Lynch.
“I think he’s grasping at straws,” Kokoski said. “I think he’s desperate for attention. He doesn’t trust anybody in county government.”
She also said that she has no problem turning over her emails to Williams if that’s what he wants.
But Williams said he’s already found evidence that the commissioners may be improperly discussing county business in emails. He pointed to a Dec. 12 through 19 email chain dealing with puLse, a magazine the county contributes around $15,000 to each year.
Cordes sent an email through his assistant to Kalo and Kokoski asking if they wanted to continue to fund the magazine this year, saying he believed it was important.
Kokoski replied, “I agree we need to tell the positive side of our county, since the newspapers sell papers by feeding on the drama.”
But Cordes said Thursday the only reason he didn’t send Williams the email was because he already knew that Williams opposed spending money on puLse.
Williams said he doesn’t see the benefit to spending money on the magazine and plans to vote against continued funding. He said he’s concerned that the other commissioners were making decisions outside of the confines of public meetings.
Kokoski said she doesn’t think the puLse emails violated the state’s open meetings laws.
“We are allowed to talk,” she said.
Kalo and Kokoski both said they plan to continue supporting puLse.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.