2009-01-17 / Editorials & Letters

Another Letter: Writer asks what trustee is waiting for on issue of paying back illegal reimbursements

Editor:

Last Friday, January 9, 2009, Licking County Judge Thomas entered his decision on the case of Bowling Green Township Petitioners v. Trustee Don Watkins.

I chose not to comment on the case until after this entry was officially added to the docket. For starters on this writing, it needs to be remembered that I am the one that picked up the pen as a resident and knocked on the doors of fellow township residents to see if they agreed it should be put before a court to hear. It did get before a court and I feel my obligations to assure this occurred have been fulfilled.

As the newest elected Trustee in Bowling Green Township, the illegal practice was something well in place before my arrival. How would anyone be aware of this or how it was allowed to occur prior to sunshine coming into the Halls of Bowling Green Township? I told people I would be accountable when entrusted and sworn in to uphold the law, and I take this obligation literally and seriously.

Trustee Watkins clearly lied when he stated over and over that "he checked it out and it was all legal." On this story, his long term sordid tale took it so far as to benefit his coffers to the tune of $2,969.60 ! The full story with a time line is something I am in the process of drafting for anyone wanting all the details of how Watkins ended up with more taxpayers money than he was entitled to.

Have no confusion on the fact that it was illegal for Trustee Watkins to do what he did with OUR money put into HIS pocket. Trustee Watkins' arrogance fueled him to keep "taking" our money, even after being questioned about it at public meetings on multiple occasions over time.

One resident even read the specific applicable Ohio Revised Code 505.60 & 505.601 sections at a meeting and asked how the board could interpret these sections to allow Watkins to also take a reimbursement "concurrently" to being on the Township's health insurance plan?

But, the illegal activity just kept continuing. As a Trustee, I refused to endorse checks starting in early 2008, yet Watkins kept "taking" our money, month after month anyway. He touts self-proclaimed ignorance and supposed "past practice" as his guidance, logic and justification.

We now know the court determined that there was not enough evidence presented to actually justify removing Don Watkins's from office, for this clear cut illegal double dipping action.

The facts still remain that the law was broken and the unlawful activity occurred monthly from October 2005 through June 2008. If I would not have personally pushed for a legal opinion as an elected Trustee of Bowling Green Township, the illegal activity most certainly would still be "business as usual," funded by our taxpayer money. The board of trustees put another question to the County Prosecutors office many months ago and still waits answer to it - "Does Trustee Watkins have to pay back the illegal reimbursement checks that he took?"

Watkins has stated publicly on more than one occasion that "He would pay it back, if he had to." To this date it is unknown who exactly Don Watkins is waiting to hear from to TELL him. Clearly for anyone following this case closely, the recent court case concerned ORC 3.07 - Removal from office by petition. The judge's verdict does not exonerate the illegal activity. Will the prosecutor's office answer the question and when? We do not know?

The question remains, will we as township taxpayers get the money back to fill some potholes instead of Watkins pants?

Jeff Chorpenning Bowling Green Township

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