Perry resident questions trustee’s attendance record

PERRY TWP. — A township resident raised an issue Monday with Trustee Don Rudibaugh’s attendance record, but Rudibaugh said there’s more to the job than just going to the meetings held twice a month.

Rudibaugh spends time in Florida during the winter and, when asked, said he’s missed three meetings so far this year since Jan. 1. But he also said when he’s out of state, he’s still in contact with the other trustees via email and phone calls and has taken part in conference calls with the other trustees and their legal counsel regarding township business.

He has also flown back to Ohio for trustee meetings and responded to the complaint by resident Linda Dickey by saying there’s a lot of other meetings besides this that trustees attend. He also gets phone calls from residents about issues.

“When you’re in Florida, you’re not attending other meetings,” Dickey said.

She had read about another resident questioning where Rudibaugh was at the last meeting in March and wanted to know about the meeting requirement and whether Rudibaugh still gets paid if he’s not at the scheduled meeting. She questioned why he ran for office if he’s not going to be there.

“He shouldn’t be paid if he’s not here. That’s our tax dollars,” she said.

Trustee Chair Cliff Mix said there’s nothing in the Ohio Revised Code or legislation that says how many meetings a trustee has to attend. According to Rudibaugh, they have to be available 200 days per year. Trustees are paid based on 200 days per year. Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston said they get paid $1,039 per month or $12,478 per year.

According to Ohio Revised Code, “Whenever any township officer ceases to reside in the township, or is absent from the township for ninety consecutive days, except in case of sickness or injury as provided in this section, his office shall be deemed vacant and the board of township trustees shall declare a vacancy to exist in such office.”

Rudibaugh still lives in the township when he goes to Florida and has not been gone for 90 days straight. An Ohio Township handbook by the Ohio Auditor of State also said “failure to attend meetings is not a basis upon which the township trustees may declare the office of township trustee vacant,” referring to the 90-day period.

Dickey claimed that Rudibaugh wasn’t always there when she and fellow resident Maria Harrold came to meetings, but both he and the two residents were in attendance at the Jan. 28 meeting. When he’s not there, his fellow trustees vote to excuse his absence.

Trustee Jim Armeni defended Rudibaugh and said he’s a well-respected longtime businessman, noting that the people of the township thought enough of him to elect him to three terms in office. The Florida issue was raised during the campaign for his second term in 2013 and he ended up being the top vote-getter out of five candidates for two trustee spots. During the last election, he was the next highest vote-getter, behind Armeni, again in a five-person race.

In other business, trustees voted to seek a legal opinion on the use of road department funds for building renovations, to see if it’s ok to use the funds for general improvements to the building where the department is housed, such as restrooms, the cement floor or parking lot. If the legal opinion says it’s ok, Armeni said they will see what they can do to make some improvements.

Trustees also voted to participate in the Ohio Department of Transportation road salt contract to purchase 400 tons of salt. When asked about the price, they said they don’t have it yet.

For the fire department, trustees agreed to purchase 200 feet of rubber-coated hose for $1,250 from Finley Fire. When asked about the engine in the newer pumper truck, Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher suggested trustees consult with an attorney, explaining that other departments with that engine in their KME trucks have filed lawsuits and won. He said the engine has been working ok recently, but there have been problems in the past. The KME representative he talked to at one point said the department would be getting a new engine, but now he’s denying he ever said that. The department had also been told not to worry about the warranty, that the engine issue would be handled. Mix asked him for serial numbers for the engine and truck and the purchase agreement so they can get started.

“We’ll have to do something about it because who knows how long it’s going to last,” he said.

The trustees went into executive session near the end of the meeting for personnel, with no action to be taken.

The next meeting is 6:30 p.m. April 22.