South Amherst mayor Dave Leshinski’s goals modest in 2016

Missing cash, damaged trust mean spending will stay restricted

By Jason Hawk -

Newly sworn-in South Amherst mayor Dave Leshinski has his work cut out for him.

The village in 2016 is moving to resurface Russia Road, its second-busiest stretch next to Main Street, and is looking for bids.

Leshinski also wants to tackle storm water problems as above-normal temperatures dump heavy rain loads into the system.

And in his four-year term the new mayor wants to start replacing aging water lines that tie into residences.

But day-to-day operations are hampered by the albatross around South Amherst’s neck — the financial ruin brought by the alleged theft-in-office of former village clerk Kimberly Green.

Police believe she stole roughly $500,000 from taxpayers over a two-year span, spending most of the missing cash on lottery tickets.

Leshinski called it a “traumatic episode” that has deflated the public’s trust.

The village is bonded against such problems but not for the full amount taken. Leshinski said he expects to get some of the money back, and the Ohio Lottery Commission has seized some of Green’s winnings while a criminal case against her persists.

In the meantime, South Amherst departments have severely curtailed spending. “This coming year we probably will have to maintain that same type of attitude,” the mayor said.

But the trade-off is having to overlook “wants” and only focus on providing essential services.

Steps have been taken to make sure all village employees are accountable. But South Amherst still has a public relations problem since the thefts were brought to light.

“People are still calling and saying, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re up to almost a year since it’s been discovered and of course the wheels of justice turn very slowly,” Leshinski said.

Green faces counts of felony theft, tampering with records, and withholding retirement benefits. She has pleaded not guilty.

The next pretrial hearing in her case is Jan. 29.

That hardship aside, Leshinski said he wants to do what he can to keep the village in good shape.

“I want to be a hands-on mayor, to be available,” he said.

That’s something with which he has experience already. Last year, Leshinski often filled in for former mayor Barbara Becker, who took time off from the rigors of public duty due to medical issues.

He estimates he served as mayor pro tempore about 60 to 70 percent of the time in the second six months of 2015.

Still: “Being the substitute is one thing and being the mayor is another,” said Leshinski.

Also new to village leadership are council members Susan Howell, David Troike, and Jed Willis.

Howell and Troike were elected in November; Howell was chosen to serve when councilman John Green, husband of Kimberly Green, stepped down.

They join incumbents Dennis Burdue, Donna Hauck, and Robert James.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Missing cash, damaged trust mean spending will stay restricted

By Jason Hawk