The mystery of who leaked a confidential emailed letter to Liberty Township’s former fiscal officer has been solved.
Nancy Denutte, Liberty Township’s current fiscal officer, is the person who emailed a letter to township trustees from the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office to a third party who then emailed it to former fiscal officer Mark Gerber.
Gerber shared that information with The Gazette over the weekend and Denutte confirmed it on Monday.
Trustees were upset that Gerber presented the letter at a trustee meeting last month, and Trustee Tom Mitchell later asked for the person who shared the email to come forward and take responsibility.
“I don’t remember sending it,” Denutte said when first contacted by The Gazette Monday morning. “I may have done it but not intentionally.”
However, later Monday, after she had searched her work email, she acknowledged: “I did it. I don’t use that email (address). I’m just shocked. I had no idea.”
“She knew she was responsible for it,” said Mitchell on Monday. “She sat in the meeting the night it came out and saw it.”
Denutte had sent the letter to Tom Hedge, of HR Butler, the company that handles the township’s payroll, about the township’s health insurance opt-out program. Gerber and Denutte have disagreed about the legality of the program, and the confidential letter from the prosecutor’s office took no side in the matter.
Hedge confirmed Monday that he received the email from Denutte with all contact information redacted.
“When I got it, all the information had been stripped out,” Hedge said. “I sent it to Mark (Gerber), asking about the ordinance” in connection with the program. Gerber was fiscal officer when the program started and insists it is legal.
Denutte also sent the letter to chief auditor Mark Long at the State Auditor’s Office, who asked for a copy of the legal opinion.
“When I sent it, I was trying to get an investigation,” Denutte said. “I sent it just as I received it — no redaction. It would be counter-productive to what I was trying to accomplish.”
Gerber distributed a packet of information at the trustees’ July 5 meeting that included the document trustees claim is protected by “attorney-client privilege.”
Trustee Melanie Leneghan put Gerber on the spot at the meeting. She noticed that one of the documents that Gerber handed out was what she termed an “attorney-client privileged email” to trustees.
“How is Mr. Gerber in receipt of attorney-client information?” Leneghan asked.
Gerber said, “It showed up in my email.”
“At the meeting that night, I couldn’t remember who sent it to me,” Gerber said Monday. “I had left my cellphone at home.”
Mitchell told The Gazette on July 20 that he knows who the sender was. “The person who did it has every right to break the privilege,” Mitchell said. “They must have thought they were doing something illegal because they redacted the header and the names.”
Mitchell said on July 20 that, after trustees returned from a closed-door executive session July 5, Leneghan called the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. “She left a voice mail,” Mitchell said.
“There’s nothing that’s criminally involved, as much as Trustee Leneghan thought,” Mitchell said. “I would like that person to say they did it.”
Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien confirmed Monday there wasn’t anything illegal about breaking the confidentiality of the document.
“The privilege is the clients’,” O’ Brien said. “The client always has the option of releasing whatever they want.”
“Even if it’s not an earth-shattering document, it’s still breaking confidentiality,” Mitchell said July 20. “So the intent is what I’m upset about.”
“We need to be honest and trust each other,” Mitchell said. “I just want to get it over with.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.