Kafferlin replaces Morrison as county chair in contentious meeting
The Warren County Commissioners have a new chairman.
Commissioner Ben Kafferlin took over about an hour and a half into a contentious regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Commissioner Jeff Eggleston made a motion to add an item to the beginning of the agenda that would make Kafferlin the chairman and Commissioner Cindy Morrison, who held the position since the commissioners held their first organizational meeting after being elected, the vice-chair. Lengthy discussion followed, with tempers flaring both in the audience and at the commissioners table.
In making the motion, Eggleston said the proposed change would improve efficiency in the office and “produce more and better results for the community.”
Kafferlin seconded the motion.
“I think this is the best route given poor options,” he said.
He said he would “restore decorum and civility” in the office.
“The candidate receiving the most votes is appointed the chair,” Morrison said. “If you want to be the chair, my suggestion is to get the most votes in the next election.”
Eggleston denied that the leadership change proposal was a “power play.”
Throughout the leadership discussion, he has focused on the time he says Morrison spends in the office.
“The number one thing that we were asked when we were running for office… will you be a full-time commissioner,” Eggleston said. “It’s not happening.”
“Commissioner Morrison has been working an average of seven hours a week,” he said. “There are weeks when she works one hour in the office.”
“Do you personally feel that it’s ok for someone to make $60,000 a year working for the county and work less than 10 hours a week?” he asked.
He said the only method he has to hold Morrison accountable is removing her from her position as chair.
“It is unfortunate that Eggleston has decided to criticize the amount of work that I’ve been doing as a commissioner,” Morrison said. “I am completely devoted to this job. I put in countless hours every week, not only in the courthouse. It is just not necessary to sit behind a desk at your office to do your job.”
She said Eggleston maintained the employment he had at the time he was elected “for many months” into the commissioners’ term.
“I never shed light on his absences,” Morrison said. “I was at the courthouse working day and night… sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning.”
She said she had asked Chief Clerk Pam Matve about Eggleston’s allegations that county business was being held up because she was not in the office enough and that Matve said she could not find any examples.
“I take my position as commissioner very seriously,” she said. “Don’t be fooled into believing that they are being held back by me. The two of them were in lockstep controlling every situation.”
“Jeff oftentimes is the last commissioner to sign paperwork and needs to be reminded,” she said. “Have I taken issue? Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”
She admitted that many of the things she brought up were “trite and ridiculous” but, “I am being called out on these petty issues, so I am defending myself.”
Kafferlin recently said the “rules of engagement” for the commissioners moving forward would have to include “show up to work and don’t bushwhack each other.”
“If they feel that they are being bushwhacked, in my opinion it’s because they lack transparency,” Morrison said.
Morrison said the county staff feels that they “are working under a microscope” and described Kafferlin’s and Eggleston’s leadership method as “dictatorial and petty.”
She described times she has felt unsafe with her fellow commissioners and times when Eggleston had “saliva dripping from his mouth in anger at me.”
She said she was “verbally accosted by Eggleston” in the courthouse hallway after a discussion with a county department director. “He became very angry, took a step toward me… and said if I ever want to get another thing accomplished in my term I’d better not make an issue,” she said. “He would personally see to it that I would accomplish absolutely nothing… make my term a living hell.”
“All of this because I dare to stand up to them,” Morrison said. “I find them to be misogynists. I am forced to work in a highly toxic environment with them.”
Morrison accused Eggleston of arranging the timing of the change in leadership issue to coincide with her daughter’s wedding. “You knew that when you notified me just one hour before our work session that I would not be there,” she said. “You knew that this would be spilled all over the newspaper last week. So now, as part of the memories (of the wedding) they will forever remember this episode. I believe you owe everyone from both families a sincere apology.”
“I did not know that she had blocked out the entire week… she had been gone for weeks to begin with,” Eggleston said.
He said the timing was due to contract negotiations with the county’s largest union of which he said Morrison attended a portion of only one meeting. “That entire contract was negotiated by me and Commissioner Kafferlin alone,” he said.
“No one looks good in this,” Kafferlin said. “We still have two years together. The county needs our leadership.”
He said he believes he “accomplished a lot as vice chair” and that Morrison would be able to do the same.
“To move forward, I think we need to be civil to one another, prevent bickering and keep business moving,” Kafferlin said. “I think I can effectively do that. As chair I will not let meetings like this happen.”
When the commissioners opened the item for public comment, several of the 30 people in attendance gave their viewpoints.
“This whole matter is so unprofessional it’s embarrassing,” Dan Ristau said. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
He suggested that the commissioners table the issue of the chair and take up their differences in private.
“You’re making an ass of yourself,” Joe Scully said to the commissioners. “I suggest you reschedule your meeting.”
“The procedure always is the highest vote getter,” Scully said.
Eventually, the motion naming Kafferlin the chairman and Morrison vice-chair was approved. Eggleston and Kafferlin voted in favor and Morrison against.
Below is the entire text of Commissioner Morrison’s statement from her facebook.
Commissioners Kafferlin and Eggleston defied the will of the voters and replaced me as Chairman of the Warren County Board of Commissioners at today’s public meeting. Please read the following statement which I read.
It is unfortunate that Eggleston has decided to criticize the amount of work I’ve been doing as a Commissioner even going so far as to develop a means to track me, the Cindy tracker. I want the citizens to know, I am completely devoted to this job. I put in countless hours every week at the Court House and more importantly outside the Court House. I regularly meet with employees, especially our top-level directors, with people from agencies the county deals with, and with constituents addressing their concerns. There are many nights every week, which include weekends that I am up late on the phone doing county business. I don’t criticize how my fellow commissioners do their jobs and they need to be willing to recognize there is more than one way to do your job as a commissioner. There have been countless times I am at the Court House working and neither Jeff nor Ben is found there, but I don’t automatically assume they are not working. People may forget how Dr. David K Rice used to maintain a full veterinary practice while he was Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, a position he held for 20 years. In today’s world it is just not necessary to sit behind a desk in an office to do your job. I am at the Court House, I am at our meetings, however I also do perform work outside of the office and there is nothing wrong with that.
But, it is wrong and there are ongoing problems of my fellow commissioners meeting privately to discuss county business without me, this is outside of public meetings and violates the sunshine law. I have tried to point this out and the newspaper has backed me up on this. If Eggleston refers to this as bullying because I have called them out of this and other important issues, well, I’m sorry, but these issues should be addressed and discussed in public. There are three Commissioners and when we do county work it needs to be done together. It’s pretty simple and it’s what the law requires.
I’m not going into a lot of the details at this time of what has been said and done because it is political arguing. What is going on here is not good for our county and it is not constructive. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Eggleston, I believe you owe my entire family and the entire Blick family an apology. You have known for months that my daughter was getting married this past weekend. I confirmed with our Chief Clerk that you and Commissioner Kafferlin were aware I would be away from the office the week of the wedding. There was absolutely no reason to make this big political issue at this particular time, but you chose to do that anyway. You knew when you notified me just one hour before our work session last Monday that I wasn’t going to be there. You knew! You knew I was getting ready for my daughter’s wedding that was to take place on our family property. You knew that this would be spilled all over the newspaper last week and that my family would be dealing with this at the very same time that we were supposed to be getting ready for my daughter’s wedding. So now, as part of the memories of two beautiful young people and both of their families’, they will forever remember this episode. Shame on you, I believe you owe everyone from both families’ a sincere apology.
I have had many staff members and tenured directors come to me expressing concerns that their jobs are in jeopardy not due to their job performance but due to disagreeing with Jeff and Ben on routine matters. I have evidence that will back up what I am saying. There have been what is essentially a gag order given to a staffer to prevent them from expressing their opinions, to prevent candid comments of advice or even to prevent the staff member from offering constructive criticisms. Staff has expressed feelings of being threatened, demeaned and bullied while offering opinions on any matters by the two Commissioners.
I would like to address of few of the statements being made about me by Eggleston. He states there have been hold ups in securing contract signatures, addressing constituent concerns, sharing information with the public, an unfocused agenda, and an inability to move quickly to address problems due to my lack of involvement. I spoke at length with our Chief Clerk about his accusations. His statements confuse her, along with me. When I asked her to identify any perceived hold ups on anything at all that I am directly responsible for, her answer was there have not been any. I take my position as commissioner very seriously and continually check in with Pam to see if there is anything for me to review or needing my signature. On the other hand, Jeff oftentimes is the last Commissioner to sign paperwork. Have I ever taken issue with him regarding his lack of efficiency, absolutely not? If you were to look through county paperwork, contracts, proclamations, resolutions, agreements, purchase orders approvals, etc. you will find that my signature is there 9 times out of 10. If you were to review minutes from our many public meetings, you will find I am present and accounted for. Do I miss a meeting every now and again, of course I do and so do they. Am I late or leave early for meetings, yes for good reasons, and so do they.
As far as that I haven’t initiated anything, I have brought up initiatives. Our role as Commissioners isn’t about bringing up projects it is about working together. It isn’t about keeping track; it’s about working as a team. We don’t define the chairmanship role by who has done more things that is a ridiculous argument. The precedence has always been the candidate receiving the most votes is appointed the chairman. If you wish to be the chair, my advice would be to become the top vote getter in the next election.
I am a strong woman fully intending to continue working as the County Commissioner Chair as the people have elected me to do so and I will not be silenced. If the two Commissioners chose to remove me as the chair, they do so in defiance of the voters’ wishes.
I want the public to know that when we three took office in January 2016, Jeff was still employed with Blair. He continued to work for Blair for many months. I only bring this to your attention now due to Jeff ‘s criticism of me, saying I don’t put in my hours. I never shed light on his absences and him not attending to the duties of the office during that time. I was at the Court House working day and night learning from our directors, educating myself on department matters, reading important documents, sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning doing all I could to understand all aspects of the commissioners role within the county system.
Regarding Right To Know forms on the website, Commissioner Eggleston must have thought it was appropriate to include his personal email address for which a citizen would return the written request for information. There was a period of time during December 2016 where the online RTK requests that were being submitted by citizens were only being delivered to Commissioner Eggleston’s personal email address, jeffegglestondesigns. This actually caused a citizen who submitted a RTK request to turn our county in to the Department of State, Office of Open Records due to the fact that there was no response to his request in the allotted timeframe from our Open Records Officer. This is a serious matter as our county was in violation of the Open Records Law. Commissioner Eggleston’s excuse for this was that it was just a glitch.
For Commissioner Eggleston to state that he and Commissioner Kafferlin could be more productive with a change of leadership is outlandish. From the beginning of our term it became increasingly clear that the two of them were in lock step, controlling every situation. Please do not be fooled into believing they are being held back by me; it could not be further from the truth. When Commissioner Kafferlin states there is two primary principles necessary to follow for a code of conduct to be successful – show up to work and don’t bushwhack each other, I can easily explain my case. I do show up for work and I do not bushwhack them; it is impossible for me to add items to the agenda that would be approved by the two of them. They have made it very clear that it takes two out of the three commissioners to approve agenda items and also to remove items from agendas. If I wish to bring up an issue in a public meeting my only recourse is to bring it up unannounced. Those times have included the following:
The Sunshine Law violation signing the contract with Long & Nyquist without my knowledge – I feel everyone is up to speed on this issue, however I would like to add that there is absolutely no proof to support that the lobbyists were instrumental in securing the IGT for the Rouse Estate, this is subjective, at best. As a point of clarity, there was a $900,000 (not $1.6 million as Jeff has stated) profit realized from the IGT, which does not go into the county’s general fund; the profit goes directly to fund Rouse operations. The funding of the IGT went through successfully in 2016 without the assistance of the lobbyists as they were not on retainer for the county at that time and it went through this year without them, as well. As for the RRC securing Warren as the location for their administrative offices, I do not believe the lobbyists played any role at all in the decision. As a matter of fact, I have it on very good authority that the lobbyists were told to stay out of the matter by a high ranking elected official. To go further, an RRC board member approached me along with two other individuals closely involved with the RRC asking me if I would be able to get the lobbyists to assist in helping to influence the board to locate the office in Warren. I sent emails to Jeff and Ben asking them to get the lobbyists involved which went unanswered. Later, discussing this with Jeff explaining that I had been asked to involve the lobbyists, he stammered a bit and told me they were already involved. He had no idea I had the back-story and that I knew he was not telling me the truth.
I added the increase of the Bed Tax to our meeting agenda against much resistance and this action precipitated Jeff and Ben’s action to required two Commissioners approval on agenda items. As a regular attendee of the Warren County Visitors Bureau Board meetings, I was asked to address this increase as soon as possible to help assist their board in furthering their efforts of tourism promotion. The motion was tabled after much debate and was brought to a vote several weeks later ultimately passing. Before the measure passed there was a meeting held at the courthouse with the three commissioners, Visitor Bureau Director and a videographer whom the WCVB board was interested on hiring to produce videos of our county for promotion efforts. At this meeting, Jeff and Ben, in no uncertain terms gave the Director an ultimatum telling his that if he wanted the bed tax increase that he would need to relinquish control of the WCVB website and allow Jeff and Ben to have much more control over the WCVB daily operations. The WCVB Director remained professional and simply explained he wasn’t interested in the offer. After a lot of heat from county citizens, it was passed and they are receiving the increase to allow them to better serve in their capacity to promote our county outside of the county limits. They do a fantastic job and I appreciate everything the staff and board do for our county.
Commissioner Kafferlin signed a contract for fleet fueling services with Enterprise for all county vehicles without my knowledge, with his name as the only signature. This was never discussed with me and when I asked him about this at a work session he denied he had signed it until I produced a copy of the agreement. He then stated the service agreement was on pause, however Enterprise had sent the fuel cards to our Chief Clerk for distribution to all the county vehicles. This agreement was eventually rescinded and after several phone calls and consideration on my part, I then initiated discussion at a public meeting to contract with a local employer and business in our community, the United Refining Company.
At a work session, which took place in the first half of 2016, we were made aware of a situation occurring for non-payment of real estate taxes of former Commissioner Bortz. After the meeting I went directly to question our Tax Claim Director. He informed me that Bortz had a verbal agreement to pay his late tax bill with the county. A citizen may make arrangements and sign a payment arrangement agreement, and then they are expected to make payments on specified dates. Bortz had never signed the agreement and did not make any payments. I began to ask many questions, as it was fully my intention to get answers. During the course of my inquiry with the Director, Commissioner Eggleston walked in to the Tax Claim office and asked if I would step outside in the hallway with him. I did so as a courtesy to him, as I was not done questioning the Director. Upon entering the hallway, I was verbally accosted by Eggleston, he became very angry and took a step forward toward me pointing in may face with his jaw clenched and teeth barring to state that, “if I ever want to get another thing accomplished in my term I better not continue to make an issue of this situation.” He went on and on to say that “he would personally see to it that I accomplish absolutely nothing, that he would make
my time as a commissioner a living hell.” I asked him why he would want to do this for Bortz and how he could justify this when so many citizens lose their homes to tax sale. He yelled that this was being done as a courtesy for a former commissioner. I want you all to know, this was not the first year that this took place to assist Bortz’ non-payment of taxes, the former Tax Claim Director did this for him, as well. This was obviously common practice being repeated. This is shameful and I do not condone their actions. This attack on me by Jeff was the first of many to follow.
I voted against retaining the services of our current solicitor, John Shreve. I have an opinion, I stated my reasons calmly and distinctly why opposed hiring him over a well-seasoned, veteran attorney, with an abundance of municipal and county government law knowledge, a home town guy, who was willing to scale back his private practice to accommodate our county and willing to give us a break on the price for his services (which was less than what we currently pay John Shreve). This should not be construed as a fight, I was simply voting for what I believed would be in the County’s best interest and explained my reasons why.
The second time the county solicitor issue was put before the board for a vote was when John Shreve was relived of his duties at the Kinnear Law Firm. This item was thrown on the agenda at the last minute and the only contract we were provided at the public meeting was John Shreve when Attorney Rob Kinnear submitted a contract for consideration, as well. I brought this to matter to the public’s attention and voted no to hiring the current solicitor.
The next issue was one that has failed to be in the newspaper even after I brought it up at not just one, but two of our Commissioner’s work sessions with a reporter present. This June we were to conduct the County’s Judicial Sale, but this was cancelled due to incorrect paperwork being filed with the court by our County Solicitor. This comes at a very high cost to the taxpayers. Notices must be issued to citizens whose properties are subject of sale and this is conducted by our Sheriff’s Department. The cost to the taxpayers for this service was $16,000.00. Due to the necessity to issue these notices once again for the now rescheduled sale, this will cost the taxpayers an additional $16,000.00. Sheriff Klakamp who explained to me the process and the costs involved confirmed this figure to me. He stated it maybe a little less, but not a great deal less.
Upon learning about this, a meeting was scheduled to discuss this the Solicitor, Tax Claim Director, and all three commissioners. When I brought up the fact that this was pure negligence on behalf of the Solicitor and that now the taxpayers will be paying double, a bill of $32,000.00 instead of only $16,000.00 to conduct the Judicial Sale. This brought on a barrage of nasty comments aimed at me from Eggleston, Kafferlin and Shreve. They called me stupid and that I had no idea what I was talking about. They laughed at me and belittled me. They blamed the Judge for the mistake saying that the Judge should have known the paperwork was filed incorrectly. I spoke with both Judges and learned first hand how the courts handle the filing of this paperwork. The blame lies solely on the shoulders of our solicitor. The public has a right to know this.
The latest issue I brought up at a commissioners work session was the fact that Ben and Jeff felt it was wise to borrow from our reserved savings account to make a deposit in the general fund instead of borrow from the TAN funds we would typically use for funding county operations. I brought this up for discussion, as I wanted to know what their reasons were for doing this. I did not bring it up to bushwhack them. It appears strange to me that Eggleston would ask me at that meeting, ” What are you trying to insinuate, Cindy?” when all I was doing was asking what their reasoning was.
Those are the only topics of discussion that I can remember having brought up at commissioner meetings that they feel compelled to say I am bushwhacking them with. If they feel they are being bushwhacked, in my opinion it is because they lack transparency. I do my job and feel obligated to let shed light on all that is going on that the public should know.
Moving on to other topics of interest:
Our County Directors conduct monthly meetings. I choose to attend infrequently. I feel this meeting gives our Directors an opportunity to discuss issues amongst themselves freely without feeling overshadowed by their bosses, the Commissioners. If there was something they felt strongly about that they wanted me to attend, they know to ask me. This was not good enough for Jeff and Ben. At the beginning of 2017 the directors held a meeting to elected their new officials. The Public Defender was the current President and expressed interest in maintaining the position. Before the matter could be voted upon, Commissioner Kafferlin stated he wanted the position and because no one felt comfortable expressing how they felt about this unusual change, he became the new Chairman for the Directors meetings. I want to mention, these are our County Directors, and the meetings are for them. Ben is not a Director, Ben is an executive; he is not management level staff. We hire county Directors to depend on for their input and direction, as they are experts in their fields. To me this is representative of true micromanagement and an unwillingness to yield any authority. I can back up that believe with a conversation that took place in a county vehicle driving home from a NW Commissioners meeting held at the Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center. Ben spoke of how the directors lacked discipline and focus and it was necessary for him to take the chair position so that the meetings would be more productive. At one Directors meeting when Ben was unable to attend, Jeff chaired the meeting. During discussion led by Jeff he admonished the staff by telling them that there was too much bad mouthing going on among employees and the need to stop rumors. The meeting was adjourned then Jeff spoke to the group saying how he was sorry for all the drama being reported on in the newspaper and he hoped that the employees were not being upset be all the negativity being put out there by Commissioner Morrison and that he and Ben could not trust Commissioner Morrison and that it was simply impossible to work with her. Obviously Jeff doesn’t follow the rules he expects his staffers to adhere to.
The Knox Law Firm handles county labor issues; I emailed a request for assistance on three separate employee matters. The attorney handling the matter emailed his response to all three commissioners. Jeff and Ben were upset with me for not using the county solicitor. Jeff sent off a reply email to the Knox attorney telling him in no short order that in the future unless he has approval from at least one other commissioner, he is not to perform any work for the county. He went on to tell him that my role a Chairman does not give me the authority to act unilaterally. The very next day we had a conference call with the two attorneys that I had emailed requesting information. During the phone call one of the attorneys explained why I had been consulting them and shed light on the situation that could have been easily explained had Jeff asked me before. Later, Jeff came to me an apologized saying that he had been hasty in his actions and that he would make sure to send everyone an email letting them know he acted inappropriately. I have yet to receive that email, this took place during mid-year, 2016.
Jeff and Ben state I do not take part in important meetings, I completely disagree and contend that is an untrue statement. I’ll run down the list:
COG – Ben told us at a work session meeting that he intended on attending the COG meetings anyway, so he would attend the meetings and report back to Jeff and me. They make it seem that I intentionally do not attend the meetings. If a Supervisor was upset with me for not attending, that Supervisor should have addressed the issue with me directly, not with Ben or Jeff.
Union Negotiation Meetings – Our Chief Clerk sent us all of us an email stating that from her past experience with union negotiations, commissioners are not required to attend the meetings that the attorney will handle the process. She claimed one commissioner could attend if they were interested, but that if they did they were to let the attorney handle the negotiations. I chose not to attend these meetings. I did however attend two separate meetings with union stewards regarding their contract wish list. I again attended another meeting during the negotiations.
IDA – during last year’s budget discussions I was interested in reconstituting the Industrial Development Authority in order to provide this board a larger role in potential economic development. After bringing this initiative to Jeff and Ben, it was clear they had no desire to help me advance this effort. Jeff actually told me that this effort of mine isn’t going to go anywhere because Ben and he did not agree with me. This effort would have taken the $40,000 of the taxpayers’ money away from the WCCBI to fund the IDA. My position on this is unwavering. Taxpayers should expect accountability from the WCCBI for how they spend their $40,000.00. This group holds private meetings that the public is not permitted to attend. Their financial situation is also kept private. I have made it clear I have no intention of attending their meetings until they open them up to the public. I believe this to be an ethical issue and a gray area regarding the sunshine law.
I have scheduled and invited my fellow commissioners to attend different meetings that they have chosen not to be involved in. These meeting have included several different county directors, state officials, and constituents. I believe their lack of interest displays their lack of ability to work together as a Board. As an example, I had several meetings regarding development of a Work Release Center. This initiative was under my supervision with several county directors directly involved. Another meeting that I scheduled last year for directors was with Attorney Mark Wassell to give a presentation to the County Directors to help them understand a new version of the Overtime Laws that was to take effect. I met with great resistance from both Jeff and Ben on this as they felt this would only confuse the directors more and cause problems for the Commissioners. I disagreed and went forward with the meeting. Many directors thanked me for holding the informational session and were grateful to have such detailed information.
There have been countless meetings scheduled by Jeff that are routinely cancelled by Jeff; I have copies of the emails. I have shown up for meetings too many times to count that have been cancelled without alerting me. I refuse to go to unnecessary meetings that Jeff schedules just to keep himself busy. This is a waste of time for everyone involved and takes directors away from the important work they do for the county. Jeff initiated the coffee with the commissioners meeting and when the invitations went out to county employees the invitation was written by Jeff and signed by Jeff not including Commissioner Kafferlin or myself. Included in the invitation it clearly states that there may only be one commissioner in attendance. I attended one of the coffees and attempted to attend the very next coffee, which was cancelled by Jeff unbeknownst to me. I believe the employees have a very good understanding that I have their backs and the backs of all the citizens of Warren County. As for the County Christmas Dinner, this was an idea I brought to the other two commissioners as I thought this would be an ideal morale booster and would show our appreciation of the work they do for our county. This was quickly taken over by Jeff leaving me with little input into decisions made, as his word was final. I felt it was easier to let him have his way than to argue about something that was supposed to have been a fun event. I chose not to attend, and have been told Commissioner Kafferlin did not attend either. I did contribute by paying for a gift basket provided from the Commissioners office. These things are trite and ridiculous, and not worth mentioning, but I am being called out on these issues so I am defending myself.
When our fiscal director was shopping around for suppliers of gas and electric to contract with, I scheduled a meeting with National Fuel Resources and invited the other two commissioners, Pam and Judy to attend. Jeff and Ben decided to skip the meeting. Working with this agent, we put together an agreement that would ultimately save the county a considerable amount in gas supply costs over the next three years. The agreement was added to the meeting agenda, but failed to pass as Jeff and Ben had questions that they felt I was not answering them correctly on. They proceeded to schedule another meeting with the agent who had to travel back to Warren County again to give them the same presentation that she had given previously that they felt was important enough to attend. Interestingly, the answers I had given them were indeed correct and the agreement was approved at the next meeting. Unbeknownst to Jeff and Ben, our Chief Clerk overheard a conversation between the two of them that she relayed to me. She told me that the two of them were speaking very badly about me calling me stupid and that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. She went on about how upsetting this was to her that they would talk so disgracefully about a fellow commissioner and that she thought this was just wrong and inappropriate behavior.
One evening Jeff and Ben were in my office and we were discussing single point of entry and how the sheriff was very interested in implementing this within the courthouse. Jeff was offering his reasons why he felt that with employees having key fobs to enter at multiple sites of the building that anyone could obtain entry if they were intent on doing so. I suggested this would only be possible if an employee were to allow entry to someone who was not an employee, that most staff I felt would be diligent in their use of the fobs. Ben stared at me and with disdain in his voice told me that with the training he has had he could easily snap my neck with his two hands. I’m not sure how any of you feel about this statement, but I felt threatened. Jeff and Ben have made me feel personally violated in many ways. Ben has slammed doors when angry, shut the door in my face, Jeff has screamed at me and actually barred his teeth like a dog with saliva dripping from his mouth in anger at me. All this because I dare disagree with them and stand up to them. I find them to be misogynists and I believe there are others in the courthouse who would wholeheartedly agree with me. I am forced to work in a highly toxic environment with the two of them. I do feel unsafe and when I am at the courthouse I never know when the next round of abuse will level itself on me from one of them.
Our Fiscal Director is responsible for crafting our county budget. At the executive level, being county commissioners, we should be turning to our Fiscal Director for advice on our budget. This Director, as our manager, should be discussing the budget within the various departments and report back to the commissioners the findings and the suggestions on how to correct budget shortfalls within departments or management of adjusting line items throughout the year. Unfortunately, Jeff and Ben believe they are the architects of the budget and attempt to micromanage every aspect of the process without having the expertise and knowhow to do so well. We should be relying on our seasoned directors with years of experience in their fields to provide the information necessary to us so that we can make informed decisions. It is very frustrating for our directors to be made to feel like they are working under a microscope never knowing when the next warning will be issued for what they deem to be insubordination. Their method of leadership is appalling and unconscionable, dictatorial and petty, making false accusations and putting politics above the people.
Attorney Michael Alasky was appointed county solicitor early on in our term. I supported this appointment and cannot begin to say enough about her integrity as an attorney and the excellent job she did for Warren County. I recognize her to be intelligent, informed, involved, compassionate, and understanding to state just a few of her of her fine qualities. We could not have asked for a better attorney to represent our County as our solicitor. It did not take long for Jeff, with Ben in tow, to realize she was very bright and knew her stuff. She would stand her ground with them on legal matters that she knew should not be compromised. They took exception to her advice and Jeff became very aggressive and augmentative with her on almost every occasion that we met with her. She would explain that as a board we have the decision making power, she was serving us in the capacity of informing us on the law. It was ultimately up to us whether or not we chose to follow her advice. Jeff yelled at her during one meeting telling her that he signs her checks and that she works for him and she needed to remember that. She corrected him letting him know that the county was her client, that the county contracted work to be done by her on their behalf, that she indeed was not his employee. Jeff told her that just because she is an attorney doesn’t mean she’s correct, that he has been to several doctors who think they are right, but are not. The lack of respect he displays to our contracted professionals, our employees, our directors, others and myself is simply appalling. He is by no means a leader or a professional. He should simply be ashamed of himself for his actions. Attorney Alasky resigned as our solicitor and it was a very sad moment for me during my first year in office. I was very sorry to see her leave, however I was not surprised at all. Attorney Alasky did not reveal in her resignation letter her reasons for leaving.
PCN had a presentation on their network the other day that was focused on recovery from addiction where Jeff addressed the crowd on the state capitol rotunda steps. I listened briefly, but long enough to hear him crow about being the only commissioner in the state who was once an inmate at the county jail but now actually manages the county jail. Warden Jon Collins, I commend you for the management of the Warren County Jail and believe you do an excellent job as the manager, thank you. The next thing I heard Jeff talk about was forgiveness. I had to wonder if he was truly capable of knowing what true forgiveness is all about. I learned long ago to forgive others for the wrongs I perceive they have cast upon me. I don’t forgive for their sake; I forgive for myself to bring peace and solace into my life. Maybe Jeff needs to ponder the meaning of forgiveness so he can let go of the pent up anger that lashes out at me and anyone else who gets in his way.
Ben decided it was necessary to conduct instructional classes for our Directors. During one of these classes he instructed our directors who have worked longer for the county than he has lived life how to correctly label file folders. I will stop there.
Recently Warren County submitted a grant request to further advance the Jake’s Rocks Trails third developmental phase. As Chair, I signed the grant application. I received an email from an DCED official explaining that if the Commissioners wanted to replace the Chair as the official in charge of grant management, that a new signature would be needed and approval of the Board to appoint the designee. Ben and Jeff removed me as the person who would oversee this project; Ben has replaced me. I believe this action speaks for itself and the intentions of my fellow commissioners all along to replace me as Chair.