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Discord prevails at Claridon meeting
Discord prevails at Claridon meeting
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Discord continued to mark Claridon Township Trustees meetings Monday with members questioning each other on their character and use of township resources.
From the moment the board began with the approval of minutes to the final minutes with Trustee Mary Briggs accusing Trustee David Brockway of inappropriate behavior and language, the meeting was mired in bickering.
"Every meeting we waste so much time, it's ridiculous," Trustee Edward Ward said as Mrs. Briggs questioned whether previous minutes accurately reflected discussions.
That discussion was followed by township Fiscal Officer Lisa Millett questioning the time spent by Ms. Briggs each time agendas are being prepared for the meetings. She said Ms. Briggs should submit questions about the agenda in writing, rather than tie up staff's time "for hours on the phone."
Mrs. Millett said, "The agenda is taking up too much time and costing taxpayers."
She said she also would like 24 hours' notice when anyone asks to pull a file.
Mrs. Millett said Ms. Briggs is causing "undue stress" for office staff, even threatening them. She said office secretary Lea Hlifka was told she should resign to avoid being named in a lawsuit.
Ms. Briggs denied making any threat. "I have not threatened her," she said. But she did warn Mrs. Hlifka that she could be brought into a lawsuit for her involvement in any wrongdoing by the township, she said. "I would hold her accountable."
Mrs. Hlifka said, when Ms. Briggs made the comment to her, she asked, "Am I doing anything wrong?" to which Ms. Briggs replied, "I'm not saying."
Ms. Briggs challenged a $16.90 bill for copies. She said she also believes that the 10-cent cost per page the township charges for copies is excessive and cited an Ohio attorney general opinion which recommends 5 cents.
Mrs. Millett said she attended a seminar in which the speaker noted that the 5-cent charge is reasonable for larger offices, but smaller offices that deal in less volume could charge 10 cents.
She said charges are made to Ms. Briggs only when the copies are not part of her job as trustee. "Your copies are excessive," she said.
Mr. Brockway said Ms. Brigg asks for copies of documents she already has.
Many times, Mrs. Millett said, Ms. Briggs could just read a document but instead asks for copies.
Ms. Briggs said she would make a public-records request to determine the actual cost of a copy, including paper, toner and electricity.
Mrs. Millett said she would not allow it. "We're not going to spend residents' money to determine how much a copy costs," she said.
Mr. Brockway said the township is allowed to charge a reasonable cost, and 10 cents is reasonable.
Ms. Briggs said she had an audio recording which proved that a road department worker had used foul language to her.
Mr. Brockway said township policy only prohibits employees from using foul language with the public, not with a trustee.
"But you can go around giving people the finger," Mr. Brockway said to Ms. Briggs.
Ms. Briggs denied using the obscene gesture.
But Mrs. Millett said she was present when the gesture was directed toward Mr. Brockway in the office.
Ms. Briggs said that situation was different, because she did it in front of an elected official, not an employee or the public.
As Ms. Briggs played the tape of her discussion with an employee, Mr. Brockway repeatedly interrupted the recording, saying, "You agitated him, you agitated him," and, "You lied to him."
Much of the discussion on the tape was inaudible other than to hear a man say, "You're bothering me, you're harassing me."
Ms. Briggs can be heard saying, "Do not talk to me like that, sir."
"He was calling me a liar," Ms. Briggs said.
"That's nothing new," Mr. Brockway replied.
"I haven't heard any swearing yet," Mr. Brockway said. "I'm sorry, but you stretch the truth."
Even if there was an infraction with the policy, Mr. Brockway said, the first offense is a verbal warning. It is followed by a written warning and then a three-day suspension, he said.
Mr. Ward questioned whether the township should hold Ms. Briggs accountable for how she sometimes speaks to other officials. "Is it OK for you to talk the way you do?" he asked. "It's asinine."
When the board made a motion to end the discussion, Ms. Briggs, on the losing end of the 2-1 vote, said she would keep the discussion going. "I'm going to keep talking," she said. "I don't care."
Ms. Briggs followed that tape with a second one, which, she said, proved Mr. Brockway used inappropriate language toward her.
She said Mr. Brockway on another occasion physically blocked her from making copies. "Dave physically blocked me with his body and his hands to keep me from copying," she said. "I think that's childish."
Mr. Brockway said he did stop Ms. Briggs from making copies, but only because he believed she was attempting to avoid being charged for them. "I don't want you making copies you're not charged for," he said.
On a second occasion, she said, the board conducted an early-morning meeting, and, at its conclusion, she was the last to leave the administration building. She said she attempted to flag down Mr. Brockway as he was pulling out of the parking lot but was unsuccessful. She said she then followed him to the maintenance garage. After approaching Mr. Brockway, he refused to lock up the building, she said. "I got a little miffed, and I said, 'We'll leave the building open.'"
Mr. Brockway said Ms. Briggs "demanded" that he go lock up the building, which is why he refused.
Ms. Briggs said Mr. Brockway then used a slur in refusing. "Racist remarks are not acceptable," she said.
The tape recording did not audibly disclose any racial slurs in the conversation.
"Mary's sick, sick," Mr. Ward said.
Ms. Briggs said she intends to get the tape recording enhanced at a Cleveland studio and would distribute it. "He used a racial slur in front of witnesses," she said.
"I didn't hear anything," Mr. Brockway said.
The board also voted to reduce the daily food allowance for officials on trips outside the township, citing Ms. Briggs' recent trip to Columbus in which she charged $77 for one meal. The board reduced the allowance from $80 per day to $65.
"Seventy-seven dollars for one meal, that's impossible," Mrs. Millett said.
Ms. Briggs said the dinner was with a "statewide elected official" who chose the restaurant.
As the board rose at the adjournment of the meeting, Mr. Brockway said, "Did you hear that? She said I'm a racist."
"Dave's a racist," Ms. Briggs said.
"That's not true," he replied.
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