You hope for your political leaders to be honest and forthcoming, and that’s what it looked like Connersville Mayor Leonard Urban was doing when he explained that he would not take part in discussions on a Board of Public Works topic that could benefit him personally. Urban said: “It wouldn’t be fair” for him to talk about the issue and said it would be a conflict of interest if he did.
Only problem … he did – and he even voted on the issue.
Public Works April 1, 2013
Urban quote … “it would be a conflict of interest for me to indulge in a conversation about that building.”
During the meeting, Police Chief David Counceller read a letter from a concerned Connersville resident. The letter asked for the city to tear down a deteriorated, two-and-a-half story apartment building which could cost city taxpayers nearly $40,000, according to officials. It turns out that the letter was written by Wade Winkler, the mayor’s business partner and co-owner of Urban Winkler Funeral Home. The building in question adjoins their funeral home property.
Mayor Urban started the discussion by saying …
“I tell you how I feel about this – that building adjoins my business and it would be a conflict of interest for me to indulge in a conversation about that building so what I would like to do at this point – I’d like to turn the meeting over to Mr. (Fran) Chomel and I would like to relieve myself while you discus that building. I don’t think it’s fair for me to be in the discussion.“
Watch this 77 second video clip HERE.
Public Works May 6 , 2013
Urban quote … “Is it the city’s responsibility to avert danger for the common people? I guess it is.”
At the very next Public Works meeting following his “wouldn’t be fair to discuss the issue” statement, the Mayor took part in the entire 18 minute conversation and even voted in favor of spending $19,640 to remove the multistory building that abuts his personal business property. (That figure does not include removal of refuge)
During the meeting Urban blatantly explained how necessary it was to remove the building, saying …
“This building is in a deplorable condition, bricks are falling out and we’ve had several of the neighbors over here complaining so I asked the chief to get us some bids. It’s protecting your citizens; we have people that live on both sides – we’ve got people that live behind it – we got little kids that play there – we got little kids that walk by it every day ten times a day to get to the bus. Is it the city’s responsibility to avert danger for the common people? I guess it is.
“We probably got 30 others just like it,” he said.
Watch for yourself in this 2 minute clip HERE … or the entire discussion HERE.
City Council May 6, 2013
Urban … “the Constitution says we’re here to protect the citizens of Connersville, so what are we gonna do?”
Urban discussed the “deplorable” building in great detail, and tried his hardest to convince the council to fund the project – even going as far as quoting the U.S. constitution. City Council eventually denied the request to fund the removal of the building with only Weber, Chomel and Stevens voting in favor.
Urban Quotes during the meeting
“Animals are running out (of the building) and kids are playing in it, and it’s a danger. The neighbors are on us.”
“The Board of Works thought just like you do Mr. Creech, what do we do? It’s gonna kill somebody, it’s gonna hurt somebody, some kids are gonna get hurt, it’s on our laps. The Constitution says we’re here to protect the citizens of Connersville – so what are we gonna do?”
“The Board of Works has voted to except this bid to tear this building down. We’ve got to fund it or it’s going to sit – one or the other, that’s the only thing we can do. I guess you could appropriate money to board it up but we’ve boarded it up 10 times and it’s a nuisance. The kids un-board it and play in there. According to the Board of Works this morning, they said that the walls are bulging and it could collapse it because there is no roof on it, the roof is leaking so bad it’s rotting and it’s beginning to bulge.”
(During research for this story we could find no mention of bulging walls during the prior BPW meeting)
“So … we either gotta vote to do it or we gotta … public safety is our number one, that’s why we have a police department, a first aid unit, a fire department. We have to provide a safe environment for the town we live in whether we like it or not.”
“I want to tell you something guys … this Council, the City and the Mayor, are responsible for the health and welfare of the people of this town. I shouldn’t even be saying because I … it effects me, it doesn’t effect me because there is a house in between but it is a dangerous and unsafe place – it’s terrible.
(According to records – the “house in between” is registered to Wade & Tracy A Winkler)
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room when Councilman Weber jokingly said, “that funeral home right next to it just stinks, we need to do something with that – don’t you think?”
Best question of the evening
It came during the end of the meeting after Police Chief Counceller seemed to angrily scold Council members who voted against the funding saying, “This isn’t the end of it, because you are gonna get complaints after tonight’s TV show, you are gonna get some phone calls …”
Councilman Tom Creech said, “I’ve got a question, I mean – I’m trying to be nice. How did this get moved to the top … of all the properties? I asked you about a property in January and you said –very kindly, Tom I’ve got a whole list of properties. How did this one get moved to the top?” … more silence.
Watch the 17 second clip HERE … or the entire discussion HERE.
Urban – Winkler property
The diagram below shows the many funeral home properties owned by either Leonard Urban or Wade Winkler. The red lot is the property in question at 425 W. 8th St. Records show the owners as … Martin, Charles Kevin & Blakely, Curtis R.
2010 News-Examiner story
In a 2010 News-Examiner story titled: City working on tearing down 47 ‘nuisance’ homes, then Connersville Traffic and Safety Officer Richard Hicks explains that two-story building are off limits. It says ……
Hicks explained the city does not tear down two-story buildings because it is too dangerous and costly.
“I would love to tear down some two story buildings in town, but we can’t. It is too expensive and I can’t find any grants that award money to tear down houses,” Hicks said.