Licking County News

Etna Township fails to comply with records request

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Etna Township officials failed to comply last week with a public records request from ThisWeek Licking County News.

The township received at least 15 applications for the township administrator and zoning inspector position that was advertised in late February.

John Carlisle, president of the board of trustees, said April 11 he could not provide the names of the applicants because he had not seen them.

He said all applications were reviewed by Randy Foor, another trustee.

Carlisle said Foor has narrowed the search to four people who could be interviewed at the April 20 trustees' meeting. Carlisle said neither he nor Trustee Jeff Johnson had any of the candidates' names.

Candidates were asked to email resumes to etnatownship@insight-bc.com or mail them to Walter Rogers, Etna Township fiscal officer.

Rogers said 15 or 16 applications were mailed and he gave them to Foor without opening them.

Four applications were emailed to the township's general email box. Those were from:

* Charles C. McCroskey of Reynoldsburg, Jefferson Township's zoning administrator.

* Kenneth Miller of Newark, a building official for Fort Myers Beach in Florida.

* Jeffrey S. Paugh of Pataskala, a general manager for Metals USA in Springfield through 2012.

* Michael E. Vance of Pataskala, a utility service manager for the city of Columbus.

ThisWeek filed a public-records request April 11 seeking the names of the other applicants, but the trustees did not comply.

Carlisle said he would request an opinion from the Licking County prosecutor's office on the information requested. He did not return three phone calls April 12.

Foor said April 11 he did receive the records request and was waiting to hear from Carlisle on the opinion from the prosecutor's office.

The records were requested under Section 149.43 of the Ohio Revised Code, which explains how public records must be made available for review: "Upon request and subject to division (B)(8) of this section, all public records responsive to the request shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours."

The code explains the procedure if a request is denied as, "If a request is ultimately denied, in part or in whole, the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record shall provide the requester with an explanation, including legal authority, setting forth why the request was denied. If the initial request was provided in writing, the explanation also shall be provided to the requester in writing.

Etna Township was sued in 2006 when its trustees denied public records to a man because he would not identify himself.

The trustees and their insurer were to pay $10,000 to cover the legal bills of "John Q. Public," who sued anonymously after then-Trustee Paul George ordered him from township offices when he identified himself only as a "concerned citizen" while seeking meeting minutes, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The case before the Ohio Supreme Court was dismissed after attorneys for the township and the plaintiff agreed to a settlement, which included acknowledging that anyone can review records without identifying themselves, according to the Dispatch.

The current Etna trustees are seeking a township administrator with zoning experience to replace Chris Harkness, who left Feb. 20 to take a job with the county planning commission.

Harkness earned $51,000 annually when he left.

In the interim, the township hired former trustee Gary Burkholder to work no more than 25 hours a week at $30 an hour.

Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.

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