‘Watchdog’ sniffing around legal bills
I have been trying to get Kirkersville’s Public Record Policy and Record Retention Schedule (which is required by state law) for at least 11 months! I finally got those records last week. Now I see why it took so long. Those records were just created in June, 2012.
The Ohio Public Records Act (Sunshine Laws 2012 Manual) states that “every record, public or not, must be covered by a records retention schedule. Without such schedule dictating how long a record must be kept and when it can be destroyed, a public office must keep that record forever.”
Kirkersville’s public record policy is a little hard to quote from. Although there are three sections to the policy, two of the sections are numbered “I” and one is number “III.” Section III has four subsections and they are all “A.”
In the January, 2013, council minutes, Kirkersville Solicitor Brian Zets describes how I asked for copies of his invoices from the village clerk Shirley Roskoski. The records that I received had the “description of services” totally removed which had not been the case in the past. Zets tells the public, in so many words, that Shirley should have redacted those records and hadn’t done so (in the past).
He claims that the next request for his invoices CAME DIRECTLY INTO HIS OFFICE and he (Zets) redacted those statements according to Ohio law and sent them to Bonnie Mansfield and that is where she has the issue where she was given fully unredacted invoices and that was by mistake, but the next ones she received were redacted by law, so he just wanted Council to be clear that we followed the law and that is our position with respect to this whole issue.” BUT...that is not the case! I made my request as I always do to Shirley Roskoski (who Chief Chapman told me I must go through). I have never received records from Zets. They come from Shirley.
In one of my December letters in The Beacon, I wrote that Zets had several ‘legal’ helpers and said some are paralegals and some are attorneys.” Apparently Zets had an issue with my terminology and he told everyone in the council meeting, “Speaking of Bonnie Mansfield, with respect to her article in the Beacon, and he just wants to make sure that Council is clear on some of the things that were reported at the beginning of last month: Kelli Lady, while she does a great job in his office, helps him tremendously, she does not do legal work.” He continues, “... When we have simple motions and things or continuing trials in Municipal Court, sure he has Kelli or other assistants help draft those but he reviews everything, he makes changes to it all, he signs it. The motions and legal work are all his. He uses a law clerk to research things because it is a cheaper rate and it saves the Village money, the same thing with other routine things.”
I used the word “legal helper” because, according to Ms. Lady’s profile, she is a “litigation assistant/Paralegal” whose skills and expertise include things such as “legal research, legal writing, litigation and trials.” Litigation assistant? Does that not sound like a legal helper? I wonder if he charged Kirkersville to research my letter?
Zets can play games with public records but it is Kirkersville that will pay the price! Is Zets getting $130 an hour to play the game of “ hide the records” or is he letting one of his assistants play the game at $85.00 per hour? The public doesn’t know because....they hide the description of what services they’re providing!
I wish Chief Chapman had been telling the truth when he said they (Kirkersville) adopted the same records policy and retention schedule as Hebron and Heath. But he wasn’t... and they didn’t.
I have found, over the past 13 years, that whenever public officials make it difficult to get PUBLIC records and ACT like they have something to hide, it’s usually because they have something to hide.
I’ll have more next week...