Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Clerk's lawsuit reduced, but stands

She's at odds with trustees in Deerfield

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Warren County judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the Deerfield Township Board of Trustees by Township Clerk Kristin Spiekerman.

        Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal B. Bronson has ruled that the lawsuit will remain in his court, but at least two parts of the case would be dropped.

        Attorneys representing trustees had asked the judge to dismiss the entire case, saying it lacked merit and failed to state a legal claim upon which relief could be granted.

        Mrs. Spiekerman, who assumed the clerk position April 1, sued in July after trustees refused to approve three months' worth of meeting minutes and stripped her of her duties as recording secretary.

        Trustees and Mrs. Spiekerman have been at odds since she won last November's general election.

        Her lawsuit accuses trustees of demanding that she prepare minutes that are politically slanted, delete relevant comments and rewrite motions to exclude embarrassing statements made by them during meetings. Mrs. Spiekerman also claims that trustees have not given her adequate help or office space to do her job, have conducted illegal executive sessions, have harassed her in performance of her job and have excluded her from ceremonies and other events.

        In his ruling, Judge Bronson concluded the clerk does have a duty to keep a record of township proceedings, however, there is no clear legal duty for a clerk to place in the minutes anything but that which has been deter mined to be accurate by the board.

        He added there is a clear legal duty upon trustees to see that the minutes are “full and accurate.”

        Judge Bronson dismissed Mrs. Spiekerman's claim that trustees have not given her adequate help, stating under Ohio law there is no clear legal duty upon the board to provide extra clerical assistance to the clerk. He also dismissed her job harassment and exclusion claims.

        The judge has given trustees 20 days to file a response to the remainder of Mrs. Spiekerman's claims. No trial date has been set.

        “We are happy that the judge dismissed what he dis missed,” said William J. Seitz III, an attorney for the township. “We feel that the two claims that were thrown out were her more significant claims, and we feel confident that in the discovery phase we will prove there is nothing to these other claims as well.”

        Mr. Seitz said trustees will most likely allow Mrs. Spiekerman to resume her job recording the minutes, however, those minutes should include only motions and the vote. “She can keep tape recordings for anyone who wants more detail,” Mr. Seitz said.

        Pat Long, the attorney representing Mrs. Spiekerman, could not be reached for comment Monday.


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