Thursday, February 13, 2003

Trustees divided over Liberty Twp. takeover


Will beleaguered official return?

Compiled by Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The absence of Liberty Township's top official amid controversy over her performance is getting tense.

Nell Kilpatrick, administrator since 1998, came under fire in a Feb. 3 executive session and has been on sick leave.

On Feb. 4, she left work, saying she was ill - one day after trustees privately discussed firing her and a day before the issue was to come up again at another closed-door session.

Kilpatrick, 59, who was not present when her performance was discussed, will be vested in the state retirement system at the end of the year, township officials say.

Her attorney has spoken to a lawyer representing the township, Trustee Bob Shelley said.

It appears unlikely Kilpatrick will return to work.

In the meantime, Christine Matacic, president of the trustees and now acting administrator, is making changes and clocking long hours.

Kilpatrick is locked out of her township computer and e-mail account, and the locks on her office door have been changed, according to Shelley.

What's more, the township's unofficial mascot - a yellow calico cat named Mortimer - may get the boot. The old stray cat took up residence outside the township hall and staffers, including Kilpatrick, adopted him about two years ago.

"They were going to call the animal shelter and the cat was going to go," Shelley said.

There have been concerns raised about Mortimer roaming the township hall as looking less then professional. He has been known to plop down uninvited on residents' laps during trustee meetings, and staffers have been seen petting him during meetings.

But Matacic denies Mortimer is on the way out.

"I haven't seen him pack his bags yet," she joked.

Matacic's Feb. 6 meeting with staffers to explain Kilpatrick's absence and her new position infuriated Shelley. He has requested all staff meetings be taped so he can listen to them.

Shelley says he doesn't trust Matacic, maintaining she and the other trustee, David Kern, will try to push him out of office.

Matacic says that's nonsense.

Though she concedes to having personality clashes with Kilpatrick, she is just trying to do what is best for the township, she says.

"I am here to serve the public. That is what I was elected to do," Matacic said. "I am trying to take care of the day-to-day operations here."

She plans to preside over the next township meeting Tuesday.

She is collecting just her annual trustee salary, $18,540.

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That touch of mink: Fairfield Municipal Judge Joyce Campbell is staying warm this winter.

The floor-length, brown mink coat she wore to a City Council work session Monday didn't go unnoticed.

As Police Chief Michael Dickey stood to discuss the city's coyote population, he motioned to her coat, joking, "Is that coyote?"

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This just in? Before Fairfield City Council overwhelmingly voted to give City Manager Art Pizzano a compensation package totaling nearly $200,000 Monday, Mayor Erick Cook asked if any residents wanted to speak to the issue.

No one had signed up to talk - but then again, how would the Average Joe even know ahead of time that the item was going to be on the agenda?

The contract was negotiated behind closed doors, and Pizzano's 13.6 percent salary and benefit increase was added to the agenda a few minutes into the meeting.

Councilwoman Jill Kinder said she had to contact the city's law director to get a copy of the contract Friday to study over the weekend. She objected to the high raise; most city staffers received 3 to 5 percent.

Though Pizzano's $190,662 compensation package was approved, Kinder said the next day that residents still were contacting her, warning a referendum to overturn the pricey deal could be coming.

"I am hearing more on this than I ever did on that sludge pit," she said.

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Better late than never? Mike Fox, president of the Butler County Board of Commissioners, is notorious for being late to meetings.

Meetings start at 9:30 a.m. On Monday, he was nowhere to be seen.

So Chuck Furmon, the board's vice president, opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. Then he and Commissioner Courtney Combs sailed through the brief agenda.

The meeting adjourned at 9:35 a.m.

As Combs was walking out of the meeting room, Fox walked in. "Where are you going?" Fox said.

"I'm leaving," Combs said, smiling. "The meeting's over."

Steve Kemme

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Gone to war: Symmes Township Trustee Eric Minamyer is being shipped off to Yokosuka, Japan, to become inspector general for U.S. Navy forces stationed there.

The Naval Reserve officer left Monday and plans to be gone for at least seven months.

Minamyer normally leaves his family - and the township - once a year because of his reserve duties. But the full-time lawyer generally is gone for just two weeks at a time.

This time, "it's because of war," he said.

Susan Vela

Send insider tips and news to reporter Jennifer Edwards: e-mail jedwards@enquirer.com; or fax to 755-4150; or call 755-4147.




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