BUTLER TWP. — After receiving a letter from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office saying that Butler Township could not use its police levy funds for a contract with the Sheriff, Trustee Nick Brusky indicated he would look at language in other townships as a comparison.
The Vandalia Drummer News has obtained the ballot language of other police levies from the county’s Board of Elections. Those levies, in Washington and Harrison Township, do specifically state they can be used for “contracts made with other political subdivisions in order to obtain police protection.”
Butler Township’s levy, passed in 2006, does not, and in fact, specifically states “providing and maintaining motor vehicles, communications, and other equipment used directly in the operation of a police department, or the payment of salaries of permanent police personnel…”
That levy provides nearly $900,000 annually in funding to the police department. Based on the prosecutor’s opinion, the township would no longer be able to collect that tax revenue and would have to replace the levy or fund the Sheriff’s contract through other means.
Mary Montgomery, Chief of the Civil Division in the Prosecutor’s Office, cited Article 12 of the Ohio Constitution and says “a tax can only be applied for the purpose from which it was authorized.” She also cites court cases that “prevent taxes levied for a specific purpose which the voters approve being used for a purpose the voters did not approve.”
The prosecutor’s Civil Division serves as the legal counsel for Butler Township and expressed its opinion in a letter dated June 3.
Brusky, along with Trustee Joe Flanagan, voted 2-1 over fellow Trustee Mike Lang last month to disband the township’s police department and instead contract with the Montgomery County Sheriff. The move has brought an outcry from citizens opposed to disbanding the department as they sought ways to block the decision.
The Trustees are currently scheduled to meet in regular session on June 27, but may hold a special meeting prior to that date to discuss this development.
Brusky said he was going to use the time before the next Trustees meeting on June 27 to look into other townships’ ballot language.
“Obviously, we believe in following the law,” said Brusky. “As far as this goes, we want to make sure we are doing the right thing legally. I know that the Sheriff’s Office has spent a considerable amount of resources in putting this together for us, and they have consulted with their own legal counsel. For this not to come up is disturbing to me.”
Brusky said he has spoken to Sheriff Plummer and that the Sheriff is also looking into the matter.
“He is considering asking the Attorney General for a review and he is reaching out to the Ohio State Sheriff’s Association,” said Brusky.
The Vandalia Drummer News has attempted to contact Sheriff Phil Plummer and Trustee Joe Flanagan but they have not returned phone calls.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.