Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Officials take flak over boat storage

Some W. Chester residents outraged

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - A political storm is kicking up over disclosures that two township officials have been storing private items such as sailboats on township property for free.

In what some locals have dubbed "Storagegate," Trustee Dave Tacosik said he has been storing his sailboat and a 35-foot-long trailer at the police impound lot at the Voice of America Park for nearly four years. Township Administrator Dave Gully also stores his sailboat at the safety services building.

On Tuesday, Tacosik, who is up for re-election next month, said his items are now parked in a private storage facility in West Chester.

"Of course, the things have been moved. I apologize to the citizens if they think that's an issue," Tacosik said. "I was advised that that would be perfectly fine to do that. If it's an issue, which it seems to be from a couple people (for) my opponent from Wetherington, then so be it.

"I am just trying to do what's right for the community. Nothing was displaced. There was no cost to the community."

One of Tacosik's opponents in the November trustee elections is George Lang, who lives in the Wetherington subdivision and is on the township's Board of Zoning Appeals.

Gully, however, said Tuesday he did not plan to move his sailboat off township property "unless the trustees tell me to move it."

"I am not breaking any laws," he said, adding that he, too, thinks it's an issue now because of Lang and Tacosik's race for Tacosik's trustee seat. He said Lang recently called him to complain about Tacosik storing his boat and trailer at the impound lot.

"You have a candidate running for public office who is attempting to make himself look good by attempting to make his opponent look bad," Gully said.

"How many weeks before the election and all of a sudden this becomes an issue? That's what this is. Let's call a spade a spade. West Chester has real issues that should be debated during a campaign."

Lang insisted Tuesday he is not making it a campaign issue, though he believes storing the items for free is inappropriate.

What's more, Lang claimed, Gully was the one who first mentioned to him in a private conversation last month that Tacosik has been storing his boat and trailer on township property for free.

"I didn't ask him. I did call him just to confirm what I heard and said, 'Dave, do you remember that conversation we had back in September?' He said yes, he remembered it. And I said, 'Is it true?' and he said, 'Yeah, it's true.' And that was really it."

Police Chief John Bruce maintains that no police cases have been compromised.

The lot has not been used for storing sensitive evidence on pending cases, he says, since the police department learned a few years ago that Tacosik and others had access to the site.

Outraged residents, however, e-mailed trustees and the Enquirer. One man, Steven Baxter, called for Tacosik and Gully to resign.

"I work too hard for my paycheck and I don't want my tax dollars to be spent by two guys who don't know what is right or wrong and go by the motto 'What does it hurt?' " Baxter, 35, wrote.

Township Trustees Jose Alvarez and Catherine Stoker object to the practice. They are calling for an end to it and want a written policy outlining rules for community nonprofit groups who have also been storing items on township property.

"We've got to get 'Storagegate' under control," Stoker said. "We need a policy immediately. I don't want there to be any question when we go to court with evidence."

According to the Ohio State Auditor's Office, it is improper for a public official to secure anything of value simply because that person is a public official.


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