West Chester trustees refer actions of fiscal officer to county prosecutor, state ethics office

WEST CHESTER, Ohio -- An elected West Chester Township official is under scrutiny for an alleged violation of Ohio law because of an e-mail sent just days before the November election.

Township trustees voted 2-1 Tuesday in favor of requesting that the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission open an investigation into the legality of information included in an email sent by the township’s fiscal officer, Bruce Jones, on November 3. 

In the email, Jones writes that trustees Lee Wong and Catherine Stoker billed taxpayers to launch an investigation into the duties of the fiscal officer, the day after he was elected to the position in 2011.

“This action could only have been initiated by your trustees, totaled 50.1 hours and cost you $13,527!!” wrote Jones in the email.

At her last meeting as a trustee, Stoker alleged that Jones knowingly violated attorney-client privilege by including specific language from an attorney invoice in the email, which she says she believes he sent to hundreds of people in an effort to stop her reelection.

“It is my personal belief that he broke the law. It is my personal belief that he knew he was breaking the law. It is my personal belief that he knew that was attorney privilege protected information," said Stoker.

The violation is a first-degree misdemeanor, according to Ohio law, which can result in a jail sentence of 180 days.

Wong seconded Stoker's motion to  send the email and other related documents to Butler County and state officials for further review,  before trustee George Lang requested that the issue get tabled for a future meeting.

"This is all new to me. First time I heard it," Lang said. "I'd like to talk to our law director one on one for his advice."

Stoker said she believes both Lang and Wong were aware of the email prior to their discussion at the meeting.

"I have to disagree with that because I suspect you also received this email, so you've had a whole month," Stoker said to Lang at the meeting. "You sure you didn't? I believe you did."

Barb Wilson, spokesperson for West Chester Township, said the matter has been passed on to the township legal director, who will then determine how to proceed with the investigation.

Calls to Jones were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

 

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