The Liberty Township Board of Trustees met Wednesday for a second time this week in the small conference room inside the township offices at 10104 Brewster Lane, Powell, to discuss two issues centered around the township’s emergency medical services (EMS).
The township conference room, designed for a capacity of 12, left many residents standing in the hall straining to hear what was being said by trustees during the meeting.
“We’re here today to tie up resolutions that have already been brought up in public session on Monday evening,” Trustee Melanie Leneghan said during the Wednesday afternoon meeting. “We have to tie up the whole EMS issue. We have to move the business of the township forward, which is to finalize our response to the county.”
By a majority vote, trustees approved a $10,000 expenditure for a mailer/township newsletter to go out to all township residents. The mailer highlights EMS information endorsed by Trustee Michael Gemperline and Leneghan.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn did not vote in favor of nor did she have her name added to the mailer. She stated all drafts of the mailer were written by Leneghan alone, and the board needed to be sure that Ohio Revised Code 9.03 is not violated by seeking advice from the Ohio Ethics Commission and Delaware County Prosecutor’s office before mailing it.
“We need to make sure it is not prohibited political communication funded by taxpayer’s dollars,” she stated. “… that section of this code was recently updated with criminal consequences that consist of up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine …”
In her statement, Eichhorn said the mailer “does not portray the full story” of the situation and seems to be building a defense using taxpayer dollars against the current removal-for-cause petitions.
Eichhorn pointed out that the first bullet point states that commissioners instructed the county administrator to speak with the trustees in their October 2018 meeting.
“It was actually Trustee Leneghan that had requested for their administrator Mike Frommer to come in,” she said. “This wasn’t Frommer going on a township tour of talking about taking over townships’ EMS.”
“This is nothing but a propaganda letter,” she added. “It’s being funded by your taxpayer dollars.”
Leneghan refuted the statement.
After the meeting, Eichhorn spoke with Frommer about Leneghan’s request for him to attend the meeting.
“I confirmed that Trustee Leneghan called him and requested for him to attend an October 2018 Liberty Township trustee meeting to discuss the FITCH report and Delaware County EMS,” she stated in a text message. “I’ve also learned that Trustee Gemperline sent an email out requesting him to attend as well. The county commissioners were not the ones that instructed him to attend the township meetings. They did say he could attend after the request was made by Trustee Leneghan and Trustee Gemperline.”
Township Administrator Michael Schuiling said he contacted the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio State Auditor’s Office. He said both had referred him to the county prosecutor’s office, which had not gotten back to him as of yet.
Leneghan said she had contacted private counsel that stated the mailer “didn’t violate any statute.”
“I’m comfortable with it fulfilling all statutes and not violating any statutes,” she said.
Eichhorn told the residents in the room and the hall that they “could rest assured that they had $10,000 spent on a mailer to defend Trustee Leneghan and Trustee Gemperline of their supposed mess they created.”
During the trustees’ Monday regular meeting, a resolution seeking to immediately “replace the township’s fire department provided EMS with Delaware County EMS” was removed from the table by trustees and killed.
“Whereas, Delaware County is obligated to provide emergency medical services to county residents, and whereas, Liberty Township residents currently pay for County provided services through the county sales tax. … therefore be it resolved by the board of trustees … to direct Delaware County to provide emergency medical services to the residents of Liberty Township and the City of Powell,” the resolution stated.
“It is a dead resolution,” Leneghan said Monday after killing it. “We just killed it.”
Moving forward to Wednesday, in 2-1 vote, trustees approved sending a response to the Delaware County Board of Commissioners in response to its Oct. 30, 2018 proposal to replace the township EMS with the county ran EMS.
Eichhorn voted against the measure.
In the proposal, trustees propose a 10-year contract with the county that reimburses the township $490 per EMS run.
Speaking up, Eichhorn said the resolution should be tabled due to it being rolled out in a special meeting where public comment isn’t allowed.
“It should not be something passed today with not having communication from the residents,” she said. “Especially in a room that truly is supposed to hold 12 people.”
One resident, Larry Coolidge, said the group in the hall couldn’t hear what was being said in the meeting.
Leneghan told Eichhorn that it was on the public meeting agenda, it was discussed, and it was a matter of “closing it up.” She again circled back around to the .5% countywide sales tax enacted in 1972 by county commissioners to pay for ambulance services.
“This is simply to move the process on and get the taxpayers of Liberty Township what they deserve,” she said. “There again, you’re not getting back near the reimbursement you deserve.”
Leneghan stated that the amount of reimbursement had not been increased in 20 years or more.
“They’re still giving us $190 per run when they acknowledge their cost per run is $2,100,” she said. “How is it fair…”
Eichhorn said her issue wasn’t asking for more money but “coming up with a number that was truly analyzed that looked at the entire impact for everyone that is sustainable long term.”
“I think this is not the real intent to try and get the money, it’s more of a political move of saving face that could be done in a better way to get the results that we need and want,” she said.
Leneghan disagreed with her statement.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.