Has the fear of being sued rendered this Board ineffective?
Avon Township officials were given a censure request that was formulated at a recent Avon Town Hall meeting in regard to Avon Township Assessor Christopher Ditton. At previous Township Board meetings the Supervisor and Trustees have been very vocal about their thoughts regarding Assessor Ditton’s performance and attendance but when they had a chance to do what citizens who elected them asked them to do, they got cold feet.
It wasn’t too long ago that Trustee William McNeill publically blasted Assessor Ditton about his non-attendance when coming forward asking for more budget funds. But at Monday night’s meeting all Trustee McNeill wanted was for it all to just go away. It makes you wonder if he can continue to bite his tongue between now and 2017 when new elections take place. Trustee Chris Larson, who originally seconded the motion and eventually withdrew it, wanted to delay any action until the next meeting so that more specific complaints could be entered into the proposed censure. With almost a perfect attendance record was Trustee Larson paying attention to all of the gripes and complaints from previous meetings and couldn’t they have been added Monday night?
Trustee Larson equated a censor as hitting someone over the head with a hammer. But when asked by an audience member to explain exactly what a censure accomplishes, Township Attorney Jerry Dietz said “Nothing! An official reprimand just means a slap on the hand that “We didn’t like what you did” (5:50 video mark). Yet if that’s all it was why was there so much concern about being sued for it and suggesting to the Trustees to throw it back at the residents and let them deal with it themselves. Is this Board going to be looking over their shoulder on everything they vote on going forward for fear of being sued? After a lengthy debate with new motions and seconds, the censure proposal was eventually voted down. Don’t read too much into Supervisor Rusch’s vote since it’s always easy to vote in favor of public opinion when you already know a measure is going down in flames.
The verbiage of the proposed censure was read into the record by Clerk Jeanne Kearby (14:20 mark in the following video).
The recently settled a lawsuit, brought by Assessor Ditton, appears to have the current Township Board running scared with their tails between their legs. They even went so far as to throw the “hot potato” back at the residents and suggested that they hold a Special Town Hall Meeting and do their own censuring. One member of the public told the Board not to feel bullied and instead act on behalf of those who elected them. But Ditton has them right where he wants them, scared stiff, and it appears it will remain that way during his tenure in office.
Another item on the agenda was the insurance coverage. It was announced that the current carrier was NOT offering to renew their existing policy. You may recall that back in late 2014 there was only ONE carrier willing to submit a bid and the rates/deductibles spiked dramatically. Currently, due to the nature of the numerous lawsuits, the Township has fallen yet another notch or so when it comes to insurance risk. At the upcoming October meeting an insurance broker will be making a presentation of options available to the Board which will again be costlier with higher deductibles. It is not known yet how many carriers will be submitting proposals to that broker.
March 19, 2015 Special Finance Committee Meeting
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