2012-12-08 / Editorials & Letters

‘Watchdog’ keeping eye on Zets’ legal empire

Editor:

A recent story in a local paper reported that, “Proposed legislation passed by an Ohio House of Representatives committee Tuesday would eliminate some of Ohio’s smallest courts, which proponents call convenient and detractors call an invitation for corruption. House Bill 523 would raise the population needed to have a mayor’s court from more than 100 to more than 1,000 for a municipality, eliminating almost 30 percent of the state’s 318 mayor’s courts...”

I believe Kirkersville’s Mayor’s Court would be eliminated and I also believe that would be one step FORWARD for the people and would possibly upset the “apple carts” of some of the Kirkersville officials.

In the past, I thought that Kirkersville was playing a shell game with public records. But now, it seems as though some of the Kirkersville officials have their own farmer’s market and are hand-picking their own “apples” (aka GOB’s) and just don’t want the public to see what those apples are doing!

I requested public records from the Kirkersville Village Clerk (Shirley Roskoski). My request included invoices from Village Solicitor Brian Zets. I have received these invoices in the past and each included the date, the charge AND a description of the service(s) performed and amount of time it took to perform such services, as should be. Also included in the invoice is a list of attorneys and/or assistants who did some of the work for Zets.

When I received the copies of invoices for the past four months, ALL descriptions had been redacted (removed). So.....until I get those records, I will share some of the information from the past records.

According to public records, Kirkersville Solicitor Brian Zets has several legal “helpers” - some are paralegals and some are attorneys. Most frequently used by Zets ($130 per hour) are Jennifer Croghan ($130 per hour) and Kelli Lady ($85 per hour).

Last January council member Paglione warned that Kirkersville would be receiving $8,000 less this year in local government funds than last year and he “would like to hold off on spending any money for the next few months unless we absolutely have to.” Solicitor Zets announced in the February 1, council meeting that they “had a good Mayor’s Court and Municipal Court. He said in order to help keep the costs down (to Kirkersville), his assistant, Kellie, does a great job running himself and the Chief too. She does a lot of the (legal) work, simple motions and such, so he has her doing most of the (legal) work and he basically just shows at court when Kellie tells him to. It seems to be working well.”

But on March 7th, the minutes show that the BPA/Mayor’s Court Clerk was resigning and here’s what was said in that meeting: “Mayor Ashcraft said that Teresa Kincaid is resigning her position as Mayor’s Court Clerk and BPA Clerk. She said it is just time for her to go and it is turning into a lot more hours than what she is willing to put in. Her resignation is effective May 31, 2012. Mayor Ashcraft said he has a resume and an application from someone interested in these positions and he said if Council has anyone else in mind they can do interviews. He asked Council if they wanted to set up a special meeting to interview this applicant. He said that this applicant works in Brian’s (Zets) office and she has come out and helped Teresa with the larger Mayor’s Court docket. Brian (Zets) said that this will be completely independent of her working in his office. He said you have to look at her completely independent as to what they do as solicitor or with the police department. He does not want there to be confusion or a blurring of line with her working in his office as his assistant and all that they do. He said if you want to hire her, she will be a good fit, if you say you don’t; want to, he will not take it personally and Kelli won’t; and his relationship as solicitor will not change. He wants to make sure this stays very separate.”

However, since the description of services is hidden from the copies of Zet’s invoices, how would the public know that those services truly are separate? In fact, one of Zets’ helpers (Jennifer Croghan) is the prosecutor in Kirkersville and, I believe, was the Legal Advisor in Minerva Park where Kirkersville (earlier in the year) purchased a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser in the amount of $7500.

A date on Zets’ Kirkersville invoice in January, 2012 shows that Croghan spent .20 hour on a “phone call with Mayor (Ashcraft) re(garding) cruiser purchase.”

More in next week’s paper...

Bonnie Mansfield
Buckeye Lake

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