2008-10-25 / Editorials & Letters

'Watchdog' barks back at 'dog warden'

Editor:

Hurray, it has been over a month, but I finally received the information I had requested from our township's fiscal officer. Incidentally, for those that do not know, our fiscal officer is also the wife of our new letter writer, Shannon "Dog Warden" Duvall. As they say, there are normally two sides to every story or dispute. I intend to address each one of his accusations made in last week's letter. Readers can then decide on which one is more believable. That is just one of the reasons I have been video taping all of the monthly trustee meetings. You get much more detail about what actually happened when you can see the person's expression, demeanor and physical stance.

Here's some specific data about the illegal (see ORC 505.60 HEALTH INSURANCE & ORC 505.601 REIMBURSEMENT of officers and employees for health care premiums) medicare reimbursement checks that (Good ole boy) GOB Watkins had (get it...past tense) been receiving since 2005. As anyone that has attended trustee meetings over the past several years knows, GOB Watkins was very arrogant whenever this issue came up for discussion. He flat out refused to ever consider the fact that he may just be wrong. From my perspective, this is just another case where he tries to completely ignore the facts and just "shots the messenger". He seems to always forget that shooting the messenger still does NOT change the facts. Until the last few years, when we finally got a no nonsense trustee into office, he has been able to make up his stories (more like spin his tales) at will, with hardly anyone taking him to task on them.

So let's get to some of the cold hard facts in this case. These illegal monthly reimbursement checks started being issued in Nov. 2005 and did not stop until June 2008. Based on the data I was provided, the total amount paid out appears to be $156.40 in 2005, $1062.00 in 2006, $1,112.00 in 2007 and finally $561.00 in 2008. That is a total of $2891.40 that the township, by all rights, should have been paid back (by GOB Watkins) by now.

Trustee Jeff Chorpenning stopped signing off on these illegal checks after March 2008. He did this after he knew, with absolute certainty, that this reimbursement check was never authorized to be issued in the first place. If you actually read the ORC sections applicable to this issue (see above) there is really no way to interpret it any other way. Both Trustee Chorpenning and I had been questioning this reimbursement check for months previously. I had even asked publicly how the trustees could have ever interpreted these sections to mean that a trustee could receive both a reimbursement check and be on the township's paid health insurance policy concurrently. I had also asked the Board to show me any sort of documentation that they had that these payments were proper. They basically - as normal - just ignored my questions and nothing was provided. At this point, I have to assume that there was likely no sort of written verification or opinion requested, nor provided when these payments started. The only thing that happened was probably the result of some sort of a verbal discussion between folks that either would not or cannot read/comprehend the specific written language contained in the ORC.

The really amazing part to me is, after the March 2008 check, there were still three three more checks written - Apr, May and June 2008. To make matters worse, the June check was only signed by one trustee, Board President Van Buren. This occurred because Watkins was absent and Chorpenning refused to sign it. The only reason the July check was NOT issued was because Trustee Chorpenning had received a written opinion from the county prosecutor's office concerning the legality of these payments. By then, he had been taking all sorts of heat from our GOB's for refusing to sign the April - June checks. The GOB's were actually threatening him and went so far as to infer that this was a dereliction of duty issue. So what choice did they leave him by then? Personally, I think he had already given them way more notice and time than I would have in this case!

Bottom line, Trustee Chorpenning has already saved the township about $281.00, since that is what Watkins would have received in July, August and September 2008. If Chorpenning is successful in his attempt to get our money back, we will then end up getting another $2891.00 back into the township's general fund.

Say what you will, but we have one trustee that is looking out for the taxpayers in our township. We desperately need more public officials to stand up and say "no more" to the way we have always done it and the good ole boy network. Their style of doing business "outside of the public area" needs to end! I know Trustee Chorpenning has been taking a lot of heat over this and other issues he has raised during his short tenure. Hopefully, this is just the beginning and his actions have finally awakened some of the people about what has been going on behind their backs.

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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