2008-07-05 / Editorials & Letters

Trustee sics sheriff's office on 'watchdog'

Editor:

At the May Bowling Green Township Trustees' meeting another cheap shot was taken at the watchdog. If you have been following along, you already know that many months ago I started to videotape the trustees' meetings. My first time the GOB`s needlessly shut down a meeting early and rescheduled it for a week later. Why? They needed an "opinion" from the prosecutor, even though I showed them "in writing" that the Ohio Open Meetings law allows this action.

Then, two meetings later, another needless disruption occurred, this time to move me to another location. I had asked the GOB`s to put a written policy in place, so that anyone would know "up front" about any sort of arrangements. But as usual, nothing but chaos ensued! Once Trustee Jeff Chorpenning got a copy of the assistant county prosecutor's letter and read excerpts of it back to the board, we found out that a written policy was even "recommended" by the prosecutor's office. This correspondence was in direct conflict with our president of the board, who had verbally indicated a month earlier, that the prosecutor said "we don't need a written policy."

So after two major needless meeting disruptions, it gets even better! When I was made to move to another location, Trustee Don Watkins was ready to offer me an extension cord. But now, several months later at the May meeting, he now decides to call the sheriff's office on me? Why? I was sitting in the prescribed place, no disruptions or comments had been made, doing exactly what I had done before. This time I was told it was because I was "illegally" using a power cord to power my camera. Mind you, this is a small digital camera that might use about a nickel's worth of power at best. But he just stood up, borrowed a cell phone and walked outside to call the sheriff's office. I have no idea what he told them, but shortly three cruisers showed up at the town hall. A deputy tried to find out the particulars, but since there was some disagreement about the facts, plus the fact that the GOB`s could not produce any sort of written guidelines, the deputy rightly left things as they were. But it was a nice show of power for the crowd!

You certainly have to wonder what is going on inside someone's head when they offer you a extension cord and then all of a sudden a couple of months later, they react in this sort of fashion. Mind you, as a volunteer, as voted on by the GOB`s, I would be able to use the township community building next door for FREE, using any/all sorts of power and utilities I wanted. Plus as a taxpayer, who pays more taxes than both of our GOB`s combined, who has volunteered and donated quite a bit to the township, I am amazed by this outrageous display.

So far, we know the GOB`s had no idea about what Ohio law is. We still don't have a written policy and they have made no preparations. Basically, it seems all they want is to create more chaos at the meetings. All probably geared to make the watchdog go away.

As far as doing actual township business goes, trustees still haven't answered my simple question about a ORC 5571.02 Resolution yet! For months now, we have not found a resolution to cover it. All the GOB`s can say to Trustee Chorpenning is "we don't need any more paperwork!" I say, what about meeting the "legal" requirements of the Ohio Revised Code. ORC 5571.02 clearly states "The method to be followed in each township shall be determined by the board of trustees by resolution entered on its records."

I finally did get some of the public records that I had requested. Apparently Trustee Watkins has been receiving a medicare "reimbursement" check since 2005. I already detailed how township funds were funding him and his wife's basic health insurance, to the tune of $1,564.76 MONTHLY (up to March 2007). All the while we were also paying him a MONTHLY "reimbursement" check of $93.50 to cover his monthly Medicare premiums.

I have read ORC 505.60 Health Insurance for township officers and employees, plus ORC 505.601 Reimbursement of Officers and employees for health care premiums. I advise others to do the same, since this may also be going on in other townships. I also now have obtained a copy of township Resolution (R-13-01-180, which was passed by the trustees on Dec. 27, 2001, and is supposed to cover the "reimbursement" portion of the ORC. I see nothing that allows the township to cover/pay for two different health insurance policies, at the same time. The ORC states, "if the township does NOT procure an insurance policy or group health care service" then the township funds can be used to "reimburse" these costs, up to a certain amount. In our case, the Board decided to make this "reimbursement" amount up to $200 a month, via Resolution R-13-01-180. I see nothing written that addresses primary and secondary type health insurance. Basically, nothing at all about having "more then one" insurance policy in effect!

As I read the Ohio Revised Code, a trustee could conceivably get back an additional $2400 a year, but only if he decided NOT to be covered under the township's health insurance policy. If a trustee already had a private health insurance policy in place, then this would actually "make things more even", as was noted by Trustee Watkins. But, that is NOT what is actually happening!

Personally speaking, even if this additional Medicare "reimbursement" check isn't in violation of the law, I think it is highly unethical to make the township pay out 1,000`s of dollars for you and your wife's health insurance and then also expect to get another check to cover your Medicare premium as well. It is especially so, since he claims "we are the poorest township in the county" and cannot do this or that for lack of funds.

Even if this is legal, I would never consider taking a publicly funded reimbursement check, even though I still have to pay 30% of my own health insurance costs. But I suppose some people can justify about anything, especially when it comes to money and power! Remember this when it's time to vote for trustees. Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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