During a special meeting Friday, the Orange Township Board of Trustees directed Administrator Lee Bodnar to file an ethics complaint with the State of Ohio Ethics Commission against Fiscal Officer Wes Mayer.
Following an executive session Friday and against the vocal protest of Trustee Lisa Knapp, Trustee Ryan Rivers, board chair, immediately announced the meeting to be adjourned and walked away from the table.
“No, we take that back, you’re not adjourning the meeting,” Knapp said. “You must have a second to adjourn the meeting. You have no second, it’s Robert’s Rules of Order.”
After Rivers left the meeting, Knapp addressed a situation that occurred earlier this week. She said it has been reported that on Wednesday, Mayer called a township employee who was on the clock at the time, and stated he needed someone to bring him fuel for his personal vehicle after he ran out of gas on U.S. Route 23.
“He tried to call several employees,” Knapp said. “When the one employee answered the phone, (Mayer) said to him that he had run out of gas and he needed him to bring gas immediately.”
Knapp added that while Mayer was talking with the employee, he stated, “Do you know who I am?”
“I believe this is in violation of the law. I believe it is in violation of ethics laws, and I would like to see this sent to the (Ohio) Ethics Commission,” she said. “I believe this is an abuse of authority.”
Knapp accused Mayer of using township resources for his personal benefit without authorization from the board. She also mentioned the two township employees were not authorized by Bodnar, their immediate supervisor, to fetch the gas for Mayer.
“They do not work for the fiscal officer,” she said.
Knapp asked if Mayer had reimbursed the township for the fuel poured into his personal vehicle.
“I have not yet,” Mayer said. “It was two days ago, and just for the record, your description of what happened is not totally accurate.”
When asked to correct the record, Mayer said he wasn’t going to go into details during the public meeting.
Yet, when Knapp motioned for an executive session to speak with Mayer behind closed doors, Mayer said he wasn’t going to go into executive session. He responded, “I’m finished with this.”
With that said, Knapp made a motion to have Bodnar contact and file a report with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
Trustee Debbie Taranto said when a situation like this is brought to the board by the employees, it can’t be ignored.
“It was my understanding in executive session that a decision had to be made in public,” Taranto said. “We couldn’t make a decision in executive session, and the only way to do that was in public. So, I second.”
After a brief statement from Knapp that Bodnar’s employees don’t work for Mayer, she motioned to adjourn the meeting.
According to all three members of the board, none of them knew why Bodnar had called the special meeting.
“I was unaware of any accusations of wrongdoing,” Rivers said, adding he believes the matter has been resolved.
Taranto said that she thought the meeting was called to focus on a different matter.
“I was surprised,” she said after the meeting. “It was just an unusual situation that frankly, I wasn’t sure what the protocol was, but since it was brought to the board, it needed to be addressed. Therefore, it was decided to go to another oversite board to review.”
Knapp said she was shocked and disappointed to learn of the action taken by the township’s fiscal officer to use township resources for a personal purpose.
“Ohio ethics law prohibits elected officials from using township resources to benefit them personally,” she said. “I’m also very disturbed by his abuse of power when stating, ‘Do you know who I am?’ in order to coerce our employee.”
Knapp said if it had been an emergency, he should have called the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.
“I would think he would have called them first,” she said. “Our personnel handbook states that no township resources are to be used for personal use, and he has violated that provision.”
Mayer said he reached out to the Ohio Ethics Commission and was told no ethics violation had taken place. As for paying for the fuel, Mayer said he has written a check to the township for $40 to cover the cost.
“As far as I’m concerned, the matter is cleared up,” he said.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.