2009-04-25 / Editorials & Letters

Bowling Green 'Watchdog' questions legal opinion

Editor:

It appears that our Bowling Green Township GOB's have been trying to stop me from putting out information out to the public via my Letters to the Editor. How so? Well, it seems that our GOB's asked assistant Licking County prosecutor Eric Fox to open a file specifically having to do with my Beacon letters. How is that for trying to shut down someone from speaking out about how our public officials operate and treat our money. Hopefully, he reads this letter since it is about his recent opinion about "getting our money back"!

GOB Watkins is still keeping the illegal Medicare reimbursement cash in his pocket. Mr. Fox has given the board of trustees his opinion on whether Watkins has to pay it back and his opinion is.....NO! The reasons? Here is my short version. 1) The state auditor did not issue a finding for recovery. 2) HB 458 prevents the prosecutor from getting our money back. Mr. Fox's rather lengthy legal opinion is available on www.bowlinggreentownship. com for anyone that cares to read all of it. I may not be an educated legal beagle, but I totally disagree with this opinion.

So here is my unprofessional opinion. So far even Mr. Fox and for that matter others (including state level officials at the auditors office, our local legislators who voted on HB 458 and other legal folks) still agree that this sort of double dip payment was and still is considered illegal. I have also read extensively about the background and logic as to why the Ohio Township Association pushed HB 458 through the Ohio legislature. I totally agree with the intent of HB 458 and its enactment.

The fact is HB 458 was strictly written to clarify (ORC 505.60 & 505.601) regarding the issue of payments being made for family health insurance, outside of the township's own health insurance plan. There is nothing in this bill that even hints at allowing a double dip payment. The double dip reimbursement payment was & still is considered ILLEGAL !

If you want to hear the exact words from several state officials, then listen to the Ohio Township Association's Winter Conference session podcast, which specifically addressed HB 458 and the Medicare reimbursement issue. The best part is about 30 minutes in, but you can listen to all of it on www.bowlingreentownship.com. A document to read is State Auditor Mary Taylor's Bulletin 2009-003 which is also on the website. Read the first paragraph on page 4, which states "for example if a trustee elects to receive health coverage offered by the township, they cannot then be reimbursed for additional coverage such as medicare premiums."

As I wrote in a previous letter, there was a specific reason the State Auditor's office did not uncover the illegal payments. Another interesting thing is that these audits are done by private firms under contract to the State Auditor's office. So what, if the State Auditor's office did not find these illegal payments. A resident/taxpayer and an elected official (Trustee Jeff Chorpenning) raising the red flag! Don't we have any sort of standing when it comes to pointing out an illegal activity? It seems to me that this sort of mirrors the recent scandals we hear about at the national level, where people have pointed out wrong doings for years, yet nobody cares to do anything about it. Does a prosecutor not prosecute all illegal activity, especially by an elected official?

Mr. Fox would point out that HB 458 does not allow him get our tax money back. The big issue here to note is that the practice clarified via HB 458 was considered illegal at the time, but is now (via the language clarification in HB 458) considered "LEGAL" and retroactive as well. On the flip side, that is still not case with our double dip scenario! Bottom line, HB 458 is not a get-out-of-jail free card for illegal payments and in my opinion does not prevent recovery of this kind of illegally obtained funds.

The fact remains, the Board of Trustees was duly notified by me; Trustee Chorpenning quit signing the checks and also notified the county prosecutor's office. Chorpenning was verbally harassed by members of the board for NOT signing the checks any longer. Now, many months later, even after the prosecutor's office agrees these payment were illegal and had them stopped, Mr. Fox now says that HB 458 prevents him from getting our money back. I say he is dead wrong on this opinion! Do we the people no longer matter? Why in the world do we need an outside agency to have a finding if we the people find wrong doing and we point it out to our local county prosecutor? This sort of practice just excuses illegal behavior and probably even emboldens some elected officials, since they know that there is no penalty for pocketing our money. All you need to say is "I DID'NT MEAN TO DO IT " and "IT'S PAST PRACTICE!"

Try that one on the police officer the next time you get pulled over and see if you get to keep the money in your pocket.

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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