Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Liberty residents defend ex-official

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - Two longtime residents admonished trustees Monday over the resignation last week of this fast-growing township's administrator - but they didn't get much of a response.

Former Administrator Nell Kilpatrick quit Wednesday, effective Sunday, after trustees privately raised issues behind closed doors and out of her presence on Feb. 3 about her performance. The next day, Feb. 4, Kilpatrick left work, saying she was ill, for what would be a three-week sick leave before she resigned.

Two of the three trustees have remained mum on their issues with Kilpatrick, but Trustee Bob Shelley blamed part of the problem on petty politics. While he has conceded Kilpatrick made mistakes, he has stressed that none was serious enough to warrant her exit.

"It's my understanding that the administrator does the will of the trustees and if Nell wasn't doing her job, then perhaps the trustees weren't doing their job," Liberty resident Naomi Ormes told trustees Monday. "When trustees come to meetings without having read the issues that they need to vote on - much less study the issues - I find that distasteful in a trustee.

"As a trustee, they need to have the heartbeat of the township as their cause and not to serve their own for personal (reasons). If that be the case, the real boss will have to cast their ballot."

None of the trustees immediately responded Monday to Ormes's comments - or comments from Ron Brillhart, who spoke in defense of Kilpatrick, calling her a "class act" that would be "a hard act to follow."

Shelley had nothing to add Monday. "I've probably responded too much already," he said.

In a statement released Friday, Kilpatrick wrote that she felt privileged to have served the residents of Liberty Township for almost five years. She was hired in May 1998. Her base salary was $59,500.

"I have enjoyed working for a better Liberty Township with the many dedicated citizens and volunteer groups that have pursued managed growth and community progress," Kilpatrick, 59, wrote. "I wish the very best for Liberty Township as it continues its transition from a rural to a modern and progressive suburban area."

In her last job performance evaluation - in July 2002 - trustees criticized Kilpatrick's management and conduct, records obtained by the Enquirer show. She responded in writing in October 2002, saying she was working on addressing those issues and/or the perception of them.

Kilpatrick previously worked as assistant to West Chester Township Administrator Dave Gully and as executive director of the Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce.

In a job ad that ran in Sunday's newspaper, the township requested administrator candidates with extensive zoning and Ohio law knowledge to apply by March 31. The minimum salary is set from $47,000 to $50,000.

Zoning Supervisor Barry Tiffany, who began working for the township in December, is now acting administrator.

Tiffany said Monday it is likely he will apply for the administrator's job.

Kilpatrick will remain on the township payroll part-time, serving as an assistant who will earn $750 a month until Aug. 31. As part of her resignation agreement, township officials also will pay her $5,500 by next week.

Trustee President Christine Matacic said Monday she hopes to have the job filled by late spring.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.

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