‘No comment’ in Orange Twp. $5K settlement


By D. Anthony Botkin - abotkin@aimmediamidwest.com



“No comment” is the in vogue term when there are questions asked about a $5,000 payment to an Orange Township employee as part of an agreement to drop charges against the township.

Orange Township trustees directed the township’s “fiscal officer to establish a purchase order” to a township employee “in the gross amount of $5,000” Monday to have charges filed against the township dropped. It’s not the first time trustees have given this order to the fiscal officer.

Patti Lewis, the township’s former assistant fiscal officer, reached an agreement with the township to drop charges she had filed in 2014 with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and charges filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Oct. 16, 2017.

The agreement was approved by trustees by a 2-1 vote. Trustees Ryan Rivers and Lisa Knapp voted in favor of the measure, while Trustee Debbie Taranto voted against approving the action.

According to the approved agreement, Lewis is to resign as the assistant fiscal officer to accept the newly created township position of documents, website and cemetery coordinator.

Lewis is to be paid $24.48 per hour; she will receive a standard employee benefits package for a full-time, non-union employee; she’ll start her new position with 240 hours of vacation leave and 40 hours of sick leave; and the eight years, seven months, and six days that she worked in the fiscal office will also be accepted to determine vacation time.

Topping off the benefits package and the pay rate is the $5,000 payment.

Nowhere contained in the resolution or the agreement, approved by trustees, is a reason backing up the large payment.

On Jan. 13, 2016, Gail Messmer, the former township administrator, faced a similar agreement in consideration of her dropping charges of discrimination she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio.

As stated in Messmer’s separation agreement, “The Fiscal Officer is directed to establish a purchase order to Gail E. Messmer in the gross amount of $133,930.00, together with such amount as is necessary to pay her for currently unused accumulated and earned vacation leave of up to a maximum of 240 hours and for unused accumulated and earned sick leave at a rate of one quarter of its value up to a maximum of 30 days, together with a purchase order to the Law Offices of Rosenberg & Ball Co. LPA in the amount of $21,000.00, all for the purpose of fulfilling the obligations of the Agreement.”

The gross amount payment is broken down as unused vacation leave, sick leave, and payment to Messmer’s attorneys who represented her in the matter.

Trustees approved Messmer’s agreement by a 2-1 vote. Trustees Rob Quigley and Debbie Taranto voted “yes” to approve, while Trustee Lisa Knapp voted against approving the agreement with a “no” vote.

In the agreement between Lewis and the township, nowhere is there a reason for the payment other than “the fiscal officer is directed to establish a purchase order … in the amount of $5,000 for the purpose of fulfilling an obligation of the settlement and release of all claims.”

The Gazette was unable to reach Lewis for comment but did talk with her husband, Steve Lewis, who said, “We have no comment.”

Lee Bodnar, township administrator, was asked the same question about the $5,000 payment and reason behind it.

Bodnar also said, “No comment.”

As stated in the Lewis agreement, “The terms and conditions of this agreement are and shall remain confidential to the extent permitted under law.”

The Gazette has made several public document requests to the township, which as of Thursday evening have yet to be released.

In an email to The Gazette, Bodnar states the township’s legal team is looking over the documents before they are released.

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By D. Anthony Botkin

abotkin@aimmediamidwest.com

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902 or follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902 or follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.

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