2008-10-11 / Editorials & Letters

'Watchdog' helps sniff out illegal payments to trustee

Editor:

I have been asking for many months now about the road maintenance and health insurance "reimbursement" issues.

Sadly, there is still no answer to my simple question about the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 5571.02 CONTROL & MAINTENANCE OF TOWNSHIP ROADS Resolution yet! Not only hasn't there been a resolution to cover this ORC requirement, but our GOB (good ole boy) board president and fiscal officer seem to want to totally ignore the issue by removing it off the "open" agenda. I guess they still think this issue will just go away on its own. I still say, what about meeting the "legal" requirements of the ORC? It 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 have previously written about ORC 505.60 HEALTH INSURANCE for township officers and employees, plus ORC 505.601 REIMBURSEMENT of officers and employees for health care premiums. As I had noted, for many months now, all Trustee Watkins kept saying about his "additional" medicare reimbursement check (which I call a "perk") was that "it's all legal.....go check it out!" Well "I did check it out", with numerous sources. Not one of these sources found that this would be legal, given the specific and clear language in the ORC.

We have now had many months of haggling Trustee Jeff Chorpenning if he did NOT agree to also sign off on this check. That is when Trustee Jeff Chorpenning requested an official written opinion from the County Prosecutor's office. That opinion said the payments were NOT legal. Only then, did the township stop writing "illegal" checks for Trustee Watkins!

This issue has been quite a lengthy ordeal. But what really amazes me now is that, for several months, Trustee Watkins just keeps saying "I don't know if I have to pay it back!" He keeps saying that he has talked to many people about this and supposedly "they" keep telling him he does NOT have to pay this money back. He claims to have even talked to the township's health Insurance provider. Now get this, he said they do not have a problem with this! Well DUH.....Why would they? We are paying them good money for him and his wife's health insurance, so why in the world would they care if we also pay him some "extra" illegal perk, to cover his Medicare insurance

payments to trustee

premium? Is there anyone else out there wondering why an elected official would balk at paying back some of "our money" that he was not legally allowed to receive in the first place?

What we have here is a long term trustee (27 years), who apparently has never taken the time to even read the applicable sections of the ORC that apply to something he is directly voting on, plus getting a direct benefit from. This should have taken maybe 10 minutes of his time, since these sections are short. Then, once you try to show him repeatedly that he is wrong and ask for how he got there (using the language in the ORC sections), it takes an official written opinion from the county prosecutor's office to finally stop the illegal action! But then, he starts with his feeble excuses as to why he "thought" this was all legal and then goes on & on about why he should "not" have to pay it back.

We desperately need elected officials that understand what accountability, ethics, character and honesty are all about. We need officials who will take the time to get educated about the laws and regulations that cover their position. On that note, when I last checked, Trustee Watkins had not completed ANY of the Ohio Township Association's leadership courses. I suppose this way you can plead "ignorance" much easier when you get caught! On the other hand, Trustee Chorpenning has taken his own time to complete all of them, which is quite an accomplishment. He is the newest trustee, but is our only trustee to have done so.

Several months ago I noted that it will take a number of people outraged by these "antics" to get a recall movement started. That's now happened and it looks like the Court of Common Pleas will be the next stop. Stay tuned for further developments.

One last note about the issue of the Snedden property, which is on the northeast corner of Somerset Road and US 40. I recently read in the Beacon that his neighbor to the west agrees that an error has been made on property lines. I also learned that the County Engineer still not been out to survey the area and make a final determination about this rather "long term" dispute. I thought this was to be done by now. This is a property rights issue that should have been resolved years ago. It seems to me it is high time to get this thing settled once & for all.

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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