Thursday, August 5, 2004

Deerfield Twp. meeting breaks up

Clerk alleges office break-in, defamation of her character

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer staff writer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Clerk Kristin Spiekerman stormed out of this week's trustee meeting after accusing township staffers of breaking into her office to get public records and presenting what she says is inaccurate information that defames her character.

It's the latest development in the contentious relations among the officials of the Warren County township. The situation has been aggravated by finger-pointing that started after an Enquirer analysis of public records showed the township paid bills late and was frequently paying late fees.

Tuesday's meeting was no exception.

Spiekerman wanted to read a 23-page memorandum that disputes nearly every point Administrator Greg Horwedel made in a report presented last month. His report was in response to comments she had made during a public meeting, when she blamed his staff for not getting her bills on time so her office could prepare the paperwork for the trustees' meeting.

Bills are sent to individual departments, and then it is up to the staff to bring the invoices to the clerk's office, which prepares the paperwork for trustees' approval. Horwedel's report says he "respectfully disagree(s)" with the clerk, and argues that his staff did get the bills to her on time.

Because it was 11 p.m. and Tuesday's meeting had been going on for more than four hours, Trustee Randy Kuvin, who as board president presides over the meeting, said trustees would accept the report into the record but did not want her to make a lengthy presentation. Trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed said the report looked like a "witch hunt."

Spiekerman appealed that decision to Law Director Doug Miller, who questioned if she could make her presentation in the 10 minutes Kuvin said he'd allow.

"I'm gonna take as long as it takes to read this or you can take me in handcuffs out of here," Spiekerman said.

Kuvin and Trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed voted to ask the Finance Committee to examine the bill-paying process, rather then continue debating it among themselves. Trustee Lee Speidel dissented, arguing that Spiekerman should be able to read at least parts of her memo.

Spiekerman left the meeting, but before leaving the building she asked a Warren County sheriff's deputy who was there about filing a police report for the alleged break-in. As of Wednesday afternoon, no report had been filed with the Deerfield post.

Horwedel said Wednesday he is not aware of anyone breaking into the clerk's office.

"If someone has broken the law, we would review that very seriously and take appropriate action," he said.

The bill discussion was the most explosive of the disagreements between the clerk and township trustees Tuesday night, which also included disputes over her travel request (which was denied) and questions about a sales tax study.

Because disputes are becoming more frequent among the four elected officials, Horwedel suggests that maybe an arbitrator should be brought in to help officials establish common goals and objectives.

A couple of residents at the meeting pleaded for unity.

"This is ridiculous," resident Mike Curtis said. "We have a township that is growing, has lots of money, and you guys fight like we're in high school."


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