By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MASON - A Deerfield Township trustee has been hired as chief bailiff of Mason Municipal Court, which hears the township's cases.
Trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed is not the only local official to hold the two public positions. A 1983 ruling by the then-Ohio attorney general says a person can be a bailiff of a municipal court which has countywide jurisdiction and still serve as township trustee in that county.
Judge George Parker, who made waves last week when he arrested the Mason police chief for contempt of court, hired Reed last week for the position, which has been vacant since January. She starts June 2.
The court handles the township's misdemeanor cases, including zoning issues when residents are ticketed and have exhausted administrative appeals.
"The jobs are compatible," said Reed, a Deerfield trustee since 2001. "The clerk of courts receives the fines, and the judge makes the decisions. I'm not the one sitting on the bench."
It's known as "compatibility of public positions." Reed received an advisory opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission before taking the job. Advisers from the Ethics Commission said situations potentially could come up that might suggest conflict. Reed says she does not anticipate any, but if there were such a case, she would abstain from the issue.
According to Cliff Bishop, it's "never yet" been a problem. Before becoming a Sycamore Township Trustee in 1993, he had already put in four years as a court bailiff. He now works in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas as a bailiff for visiting judges.
"As a bailiff, you're an impartial party in the courtroom to make sure everything gets done," Bishop said. "You have no prejudice or bias toward either side."
Reed, who for the last eight years has been handling family real estate and trusts, will have to go through training for the new job.
She was not sure if she would have to carry a weapon, but said she would need to be certified first. "One of the tasks before me is to do everything I can to make the court work smoothly with the city of Mason and the township," said the mother of a 15-year-old son. "It's no surprise that we need to do a little bit of work in that area. I'm looking forward to that. ... It's another job that's community-oriented."
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