Friday, July 28, 2000

Clerk suing Deerfield trustees

Township board quarrel boils over

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEERFIELD TWP. — The feud between trustees and Township Clerk Kristin Spiekerman is about to spill into the courtroom.

        Mrs. Spiekerman, who assumed the clerk position April 1, is suing township trustees for refusing to approve three months' worth of meeting minutes and stripping her of her duties as recording secretary of the board. She filed the lawsuit in Warren County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday.

        “This is not the manner I would prefer to handle this situation, but the trustees have left me no other choice,” Mrs. Spiekerman said Thursday. “Since beginning my term of office, I have not received any help from trustees, only roadblocks.”

        The lawsuit asks the court to force trustees to approve the clerk's minutes and grant a permanent injunction preventing trustees from interfering with Mrs. Spiekerman's duty to maintain an accurate record of township proceedings. She also is seeking attorneys' fees and other legal costs.

        “This lawsuit is minutia and ought to be filed in the trash can rather than in court,” said Trustees President Bill Morand. “Instead, we've got to spend money on an attorney and waste our time because our clerk is unwilling to work with anybody here.”

        Trustees and Mrs. Spiekerman have been at odds since the November election, when she defeated former township Clerk Ben Dotson, husband of township Administrator Hazel Dotson. The two sides have sparred over everything from office furniture to the location of Mrs. Spiekerman's office in what she calls “the township's garage.”

        But the already strained relationship got shakier when trustees told Mrs. Spiekerman at their July 18 meeting she would no longer be responsible for recording the minutes. Over the past several months, the trustees and Mrs. Spiekerman have fought over how the minutes should be transcribed.

        Under Ohio law, the township clerk is assigned to keep the official record of the meeting. But legal counsel Doug Miller said because Deerfield Township is under home rule, trustees are responsible for the minutes and could assign any township employee. The board appointed township employee Leeann Shroder to do the job.

        “Kristin had refused to cooperate and accept our corrections and we needed minutes approved,” Mr. Morand said. “Her minutes are very biased and not based on the facts of the meetings. They are politically motivated and meant to demean the former clerk, the township administrator and trustees for her own benefit.”

        Joe Mettey, a former township trustee and manager of Mrs. Spiekerman's recent election campaign, said taking away the clerk's recording duties was “ridiculous.”

        “I've been involved in politics for more than 20 years, but I have never heard of a board taking away the clerk's ability to take the minutes,” Mr. Mettey said. “Kristin is not given any respect or cooperation from this board of trustees. They campaigned against her in November and the campaign has not stopped since.”

        Mrs. Spiekerman said the board's action is at best inappropriate and at worst illegal. She said based on her training by the state, unless there are grammatical, spelling or factual errors in the minutes, the trustees have to accept them as she presents them.

        Attorney Patrick Long, who is representing Mrs. Spiekerman, wrote in the lawsuit: “The (trust ees) have demanded that she prepare minutes that are politically slanted in their favor, that she delete relevant comments made during the meeting, and (that) she rewrite motions and comments to exclude embarrassing statements made by (them).”

        “The public has a right to uncensored recording of the meeting minutes and I am simply trying to provide accurate records that the public deserves,” Mrs. Spiekerman said.

        Mr. Morand said: “The trustees don't want to change any of the recorded facts of the meeting. We just want accurate minutes that reflect the actions of the board, not somebody else's agenda.

        “Kristin's the perpetrator claiming victim,” he said. “We've had a lot of problems with her and we can no longer ignore these attacks because the township is becoming dysfunctional, disorganized and disoriented.”


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