The Liberty Township Board of Trustees in a 2-1 vote during a special meeting Thursday, approved an amendment to a previous resolution authorizing a $10,000 expenditure for a township mailer centered around the township’s fire-based emergency medical services (EMS).
Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Michael Gemperline voted yes on the amendment, while Trustee Shyra Eichhorn voted no during the board’s third meeting of the week.
The resolution amended by trustees was first discussed Monday in the trustees’ regularly meeting, but it was tabled and not approved until Wednesday, the fist of two special trustees meetings. The amendment essentially changed the word “mailer” to the word “newsletter.”
“So instead of calling it a mailer, you’re changing it to a newsletter,” Eichhorn told her fellow trustees.
Leneghan said it “was recommended by staff,” which she said was “a great idea.”
“Essentially, that is what it is,” she added.
In Wednesday’s special meeting, Eichhorn issued words of warning, stating the board should seek guidance from the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office before going forward with a mailer she called “propaganda.”
“It was quite obvious at our last special meeting what the purpose of this is,” Eichhorn said in Thursday’s public meeting. “It’s not a newsletter, no matter how many smoke and mirrors are built around it. Based on the previous drafts, especially the ones you authored Trustee Leneghan, this is nothing to do with getting the newsletter out to the residents.”
Eichhorn said the final draft of the newsletter was handed to her as she walked in the door for the meeting.
“I was able to scan it over and I see the bulk of what was in the original mailer that was created by Trustee Leneghan,” she said. “I see the additional information that was put in.”
Eichhorn said she still sees half sentences and half-truths in the newsletter that don’t portray the full story about the township’s fire-based EMS.
“I’ve made it very clear how I feel about this that we’re wasting $10,000 of our residents’ tax dollars to build a defense for the two of you. It’s not necessary at all to send this document out,” Eichhorn told Leneghan and Gemperline.
Eichhorn then mentioned an email from Leneghan to Delaware County Administrator Michael Frommer dated Dec. 4, 2018, where the trustee outlines a plan to dismantle the township’s fire-based EMS.
“You’ll be publishing a falsehood with taxpayer dollars for the obvious purpose of creating evidence in defense of your potential removal hearing to the extent that you have directed any of our staff to aid you in this process. You are exposing them to potential legal jeopardy,” she said. “If our fiscal officer (Nancy Denutte) was here, I would ask her if she is okay with the legality of this expenditure.”
Denutte signed the resolution that was approved by trustees Wednesday, authorizing the $10,000 expenditure.
Township Administrator Michael Schuiling said the amending resolution was written “about an hour” before the meeting began in which input was provided by Leneghan and Gemperline.
“I know there is some re-wording in there that I had put in,” Gemperline stated. “There is a lot of misunderstanding as to what has happened over the months regarding the EMS. This is to give some assurance to people that our EMS is solid, and there have been no changes.”
Gemperline reminded Eichhorn that there are three trustees on the board.
“Melanie Leneghan is not the dictator of the township board, there are three of us,” he said. “What her intent is, is her intent. That doesn’t mean it’s going to go that way.”
“No matter whatsoever, Shyra is an obstructionist to everything we do,” Leneghan said after the meeting.
She added getting the newsletter out wasn’t the rush as much as moving on to other things in the township.
“It’s not a rush. It’s been going on since October,” Leneghan said. “We want to clear the air and get the truth out there so we can move onto economic development.”
Leneghan was asked if the newsletter was really needed.
“This group is trying to intimidate us,” she said in reference to the grassroots group Save Our Services, which is collecting signatures on a cause-for-removal petition against Leneghan and Gemperline. “We’re being judged. We need to get the truth out.”
Leneghan said she had asked for a newsletter in the past, but the former administrator, Matthew Huffman, never produced one.
Asked about the $10,000 price tag to produce the newsletter, Leneghan said the rule of thumb on appropriations is to “shoot high.”
“Monday night, Nancy wasn’t sure about the money but she did accommodate us,” Leneghan said.
Leneghan added the actual cost could be closer to $6,000, and since the job is small, it might not need to go out to bid.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.