2008-08-09 / Editorials & Letters

Prosecutor's office agrees with 'watchdog' on reimbursement

Editor:

Our July Bowling Green Township meeting (theater of the absurd) was quite eventful and several folks in attendance raised issues about road maintenance and the "insurance" topic I have been writing about. It appears that my efforts are now starting to pay off.

So many issues were thrown out there that it is hard to decide on which topics to focus. So I have picked the ones that matter the most right now.

Sadly, there is still no answer to my simple question about an ORC 5571.02 CONTROL AND MAINTENANCE OF TOWNSHIP ROADS resolution yet! So another month goes by and we don't have a resolution to cover this requirement. This time around, the GOB`s just totally ignored it and the fiscal officer left it off the agenda. I guess they think it will just go away. I still say, what about meeting the "legal" requirements of the ORC? 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."

Last time I discussed the issue of ORC 505.60 HEALTH INSURANCE for township officers and employees, plus ORC 505.601 REIMBURSEMENT of officers and employees for health care premiums. This issue has been brought up several times now, with no action by the GOB`s. All Trustee Watkins kept saying was "it's all legal" and "go check it out," but provides no facts to back up his statements. I have asked point blank for the Board to show me in the law or ORC how Trustee Watkins was ever able to get a check for "reimbursement" plus have him and his wife on the township's health insurance policy, all at the same time. One saving grace is that Trustee Chorpenning is not a "rubber stamp" sort of guy; he took action by formally asking the county prosecutor's office about it.

Well low and behold, we found out that the prosecutor's office has responded. They apparently read the ORC exactly as we did and agree that there is nothing in the ORC that allows a "reimbursement" if a trustee is already being carried on the townships health insurance policy. Basically that means that this "additional reimbursement check" or "perk" as I call it, has been issued "illegally" to Trustee Watkins, since 2005.

Last month, due to Trustee Watkins being on vacation, the fiscal officer and Trustee VanBuren made a a big push (even includi threats) to have Trustee Chorpenning sign this check, but he stood his ground and rightly refused to do so.

Now get this, the new explanation (more like spin) from Trustee Watkins is that this whole reimbursement issue was checked years ago by the previous township Fiscal Officer/Clerk (Mr. Davy). Apparently he was a real stickler for details and made sure things were done correctly and he "supposedly" told Trustee Watkins it was OK for him to do this. Mind you, Mr. Davy has not been in office since early 2003 and the Watkins "reimbursement" checks did not start up until 2005. So here we go, it's someone else's fault again!

It's interesting that a trustee doesn't know how to read the few short and to the point sections of the ORC covering this issue. It's especially so when he has to vote on this sort of thing! Since we are talking about a 27-year "career" trustee (not a rookie or new kid on the block) here, that is really amazing.

Personally, I would have thought that our "current" fiscal officer would have questioned this reimbursement check long ago or at least checked on it further herself, once it was being questioned. Oh well, the answer in the end is always, "that's the way we have always done it." Apparently this "past precedence" sort of logic takes over and all is supposed to be forgiven. From my experience with the GOB's, it all depends on WHO you are. If this were an error by Trustee Chorpenning, we would never hear the end of it. It is nice to know we have at least one trustee that will read the law and do all he can to assure that the rest of the Board is advised when he feels that they are in error. But in the end, one lone vote does not carry the day.

I almost forgot another one of Trustee Watkins' "lame excuses." He said the township's books are audited and they never found anything wrong. So apparently, the state auditor's office is at fault too. Basically they should have questioned this reimbursement and told him it was not right. Pretty soon, it's probably going to be MY fault as well. I would also like to note that our Board president, who also voted to keep things just as they are, sits silent on all points, as normal! He is basically a "rubber stamp" man extraordinare. If you read my past letters, you probably can figure out why that would be the case.

As I noted earlier, even if this additional (almost $1,200 a year) "perk" was legal, would any of you ask for and then take a publicly funded "reimbursement" check, when you were already getting a 100% FREE ride (for you and your family) on the townships "golden" health insurance train? If your answer is NO, then please remember this the next time you vote for trustees.

Bowling Green Township needs new blood - someone willing to look at things differently. We'll have to wait until November 2009 unless enough people decide to stop these antics now and start a recall movement. Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green

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