Sunday, March 04, 2001

Meetings boycotted by clerk

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEERFIELD TWP. — Deerfield's chief financial officer says she won't go to any more meetings of the township's financial oversight committee until trustees give her clerical help.

        Township Clerk Kristin Spiekerman and the trustees have been at odds over everything from paying bills to delivering payroll on time since she took office more than a year ago. Mrs. Spiekerman has a pending lawsuit in Warren County against the trustees for revoking her authority to transcribe meeting minutes.

        Her boycott of the finance committee comes four months after township officials formed the group, in the wake of a sub-par review of Deerfield's books by state auditors. Mrs. Spiekerman said she won't resign from the five-member oversight committee on which she is a permanent member as clerk, but she said her duties are far too demanding for her to “waste time meeting with a group that has no clear mission or goals.”

        “It's not that I'm trying to give anybody a hard time,” she said. “I would love to go to a meeting and just sit there, but I don't have the time.

        “Without the proper help in my office, I have to make some tough choices about how best to spend my time,” she said. “My priorities, as I see them, are paying the bills, doing book work and getting the payroll out on time — things that have to be done to make this township functional.”

        Executive Administrator Dan Theno said he is disappointed by Mrs. Spiekerman's decision, but the committee will go on without her.

        “If she doesn't want to participate, I think she's killing an opportunity to im prove her office and keep bad audits from coming down on her shoulders in the future,” Mr. Theno said. “If she was smart, she would use the committee to address some of her concerns. There are a number of things it could do to help.”

        For example, Mr. Theno said, a firm could be hired to prepare the township's 110-employee payroll. He said that was one of the finance committee's first recommendations to lighten Mrs. Spiekerman's workload.

        “The board saw it as a way to free the clerk up from a very time-consuming function,” Mr. Theno said. “She accused them of trying to usurp her authority.”

        Mrs. Spiekerman estimates she spends 70 to 80 hours a week working on the township's finances. She has been pleading for a new clerical assistant since the last one quit in July.

        Trustees said they have provided Mrs. Spiekerman with help, including paying for state auditors to help balance township books. Trustees said, however, they are reluctant to allow Mrs. Spiekerman to supervise another employee.

        Shortly after taking office, Mrs. Spiekerman forced her assistant to quit, said trustees President Larry Backus.

        “Kristin wanted to run a non-political office politically,” Mr. Backus said. “And, basically, the assistant told Kristin she would not do things that would damage the township.”

        He said trustees have no problem with giving the clerk help, “but under no circumstances will we assign her a full-time assistant to supervise.”


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