Commissioner walks out of hearing, ending quorum
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville Plan Commission’s May 10 public hearing was postponed after commissioner Donna Lederer walked out midway through the meeting.
The hearing was held to discuss whether to grant resident Lee Mueller a conditional use permit to operate an at-home firearm sales and service business.
Midway through the hearing, Clintonville Mayor Richard Beggs addressed the committee, reminding members that they must be recognized by the chairperson before they can speak.
Lederer, a member of the plan commission who had been involved in the discussion, replied, “Rich, it was not my intention to try to run this show.”
She then gathered her items and said, “If you’re going to call me out on this, Rich, you can have this committee meeting and anything else that you want,” as she left the hearing.
“Am I to understand that to be a resignation?” Beggs responded. “I’ll take it as such. Thank you.”
With Lederer leaving the hearing, the commission no longer had a quorum.
Despite not having a quorum, the commission continued discussing the issue with the understanding that no votes could be taken.
After the firearm discussion concluded, a recess was taken. After the recess, it was announced the rest of the hearing and meeting would be postponed to a future date when a quorum would be present.
When contacted by the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette about the incident, Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland responded via email: “The Planning Commission meeting was noticed and convened consistent with the open meeting law. After a member left, consistent with the quorum rules, no action was taken. We regret the inconvenience caused, but the city will always strive to ensure compliance with all applicable statues, ordinances, and rules. We did recess the meeting so as to continue the discussion and consider possible action when a quorum could be present.”
Mueller, 115 E. Madison St., told the commission that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has authorized him to sell firearms if the city of Clintonville approves a conditional use permit.
“My plan, as I’ve stated, is to not house any inventory,” Mueller said. “I am not planning on being a competitor to Fleet Farm. I have close friends who are interested in having [firearms] modified for competition use, buying firearms, having them for competition use.”
Since Mueller said he wouldn’t have any inventory, he would purchase firearms through a supplier, who would supply them to him, and he would then deliver them to his customers.
“The reason it is out of my household is the ATF needs an address to have a business at,” Mueller said. “Essentially it’s the purpose of billing and a place I can keep my paperwork.”
He added that any firearm purchased from him would be delivered to the customer at a location other than his home. If he has to hold a firearm for someone, he said he has a standard gun safe in his house to place the firearm.
Beggs asked how many customers he expected to have.
“At the moment, I’m looking to have maybe one customer every two to three months,” he said.
Committee Chairwoman Tammy Strey Hirt asked the ages of his children, whether they have firearm training, and if they would have access to the firearms.
He said his children are 8, 6 and 4 years old.
“They are all thoroughly trained on firearm safety,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of firearm safety. It is actually part of what I want my business to grow into, is to teach hunters safety. … I’m very adamant that my children and anyone I deal with fully understands what a firearm is, what its capable of, how to properly handle it so that they’re safe and everyone around them is safe.”
He added, “This is more of a hobby, and because it is federally regulated it has to be considered a business.”
Eveland informed the commission that current city ordinances allow gunsmiths in residential areas.
“The ability to have a home business where you can actually make weapons out of your home, that’s currently permitted under ordinance if it’s under gunsmithing,” Eveland said.
She also told the committee in 2011 the city received this same type of request from someone else that was approved by the commission. That approval included stipulations, including a background check of the requester conducted by the police department and no advertising on the property. A copy of the applicant’s volume report also had to be submitted to the city clerk and police chief each year. This is the same report that is required annually by the ATF.
Eveland added that she has spoken briefly to an ATF representative about the current request.
Mueller said the police department has already run a background check on him.
“The government knows who I am,” he said. “There is no secret as to what I am doing.”
Mueller told the committee that he must do a background check on anyone he wants to sell a firearm to. The state does the actually background check after it receives a form from Mueller.
He added that he has no plans to advertise his business.