Liberty Township Administrator Dave Anderson came under fire last week after claims surfaced that he escorted a trustees candidate on a tour of the township offices in a township-owned vehicle.
Resident Mike Gemperline called out Anderson and candidates Tom Mitchell and Shyra Eichhorn during the public comment portion of the Aug. 7 trustees meeting.
"There is politeness of answering questions for candidates, but personally taking them around in township vehicles is over and above," said Gemperline, who had considered running to fill one of the two open trustees spots but never filed a petition with the Delaware County Board of Elections.
"It's the first I've heard of it, but I think that's probably inappropriate," said Trustee Curt Sybert.
Trustee Melanie Leneghan said she'd heard from multiple residents who shared Gemperline's concerns.
"I was privately looking into it," Leneghan said. "I disagree wholeheartedly with using township vehicles to drive candidates around and give them tours of the township."
Anderson said he meets with all candidates personally to answer any questions they have about the township and added that during his career in administration, he has never endorsed one.
Eichhorn was present at the meeting and stood up to confirm that she had never been escorted in a vehicle. She said she spoke with Anderson, but made calls and visits to various offices on her own.
Anderson said the only candidate who has been in a township vehicle is Mitchell.
Recalling the meeting with Mitchell, Anderson said he invited the current candidate to accompany him to do some park inspections.
"I met with him for about an hour and said, 'If you want to continue our conversation, you can come with me,' " Anderson said.
On the way back to the township administration office, Anderson said he stopped at the fire department to get a drink, not specifically to introduce Mitchell to the staff.
Anderson said he chose to stop at the fire station as opposed to a store because the vending-machine prices are significantly lower.
Mitchell said in an interview with ThisWeek Olentangy Valley News that he met with Anderson at the administration offices June 24 to learn more about township matters. At the time of the scheduled meeting, Mitchell had not yet picked up the petitions from the Delaware County Board of Elections that must be completed to be considered for the ballot.
"Before I decided if I wanted to run or not, I wanted to know where the issues are in the township and where our opportunities are, and that's what we went and did," he said.
Sybert said he wasn't comfortable knowing a township vehicle was part of the equation, but he said all candidates should be getting to know the township.
"It's part of running for office," he said. "You have to be prepared and you'd better come in knowing what you have to do."
Following the controversial meeting, Anderson said he'll continue to remain open to all residents who are seeking information from the township but that he'll be more cautious when dealing with this year's crop of trustee candidates.
"I've spent time with all of them before and after they decided if they wanted to run and I look at it as a courtesy to introduce them to our staff," he said. "I didn't break any laws or township rules, but I can tell you it's not ever going to happen again."