Butler Township mess reveals flaws in Ohio law

Voters should be able to recall township trustees

By Darrell Wacker - dwacker@civitasmedia.com

Politics is a dirty business, and that has been on full display over the past two months in Butler Township. That’s unfortunate, and I have a bad feeling it isn’t going to end anytime soon.

In fact, my gut says it gets worse – much worse – before it gets better.

On a larger scale, I believe the conflict has revealed two major flaws in Ohio law that pertains to townships.

The first is that township boards of trustees are limited to three elected trustees. I believe that should be changed to five trustees, and here’s why.

As we have seen in Butler Township, one Trustee, Joe Flanagan, has, with the help of Trustee Nick Brusky, essentially executed a coup d’etat. It started a month before Flanagan ever took office, and in its wake, the Township Administrator has resigned and the Police Chief has decided to retire out of fear for his job and reputation.

Flanagan and Brusky are thrilled by this turn of events, and it was accomplished because the election of one trustee tips the balance of the board when it only takes two votes to pass legislation.

There’s a saying in politics that elections have consequences. That is true, and should be, but I don’t believe so much power should be invested in so few people.

Increasing the board of trustees to five wouldn’t prevent what we have seen in Butler Township, but it would make it harder to accomplish.

Let’s face it, there are times when a change of direction needs to occur. But that decision should not rest in the hands of one or two individuals as it clearly is in Butler Township.

Secondly, the Ohio Legislature must pass a measure to allow voters to recall township trustees. Ohio law allows for voters to recall elected officials of cities and villages, but not townships.

I don’t know what the reason for this exception is, nor will anyone convince me its a good thing. Butler Township is the prime example.

There’s little doubt in my mind that if recall were allowed, Flanagan and Brusky would likely be removed from office in the shortest amount of time permissible by law.

Butler Township residents are angry that their actions have left the township without an administrator and a police chief who were effective in their jobs. They are angry that the township is paying over $100,000 to get rid of its administrator, and they are angry about the negative headlines all this has generated.

Beyond that, residents question the manner in which it was accomplished and wonder how much influence the Kolodesh family and Singer Properties are having in these affairs.

After all, it was Kolodesh who spent nearly $30,000 to get Flanagan elected – $15,000 of which was re-paid to Flanagan on behalf of his campaign for a loan repayment. It’s no secret that Kolodesh had been at odds with Lapensee and Trustee Mike Lang for years over the development on Miller Lane, TIF monies, and bond refinancing.

Residents should be angry, and they should be asking questions. It’s likely no answers will be coming, however. Flanagan and Brusky aren’t answering questions, and Flanagan has been quite open about his disdain for what residents and voters think.

That’s why voters should have the right to recall trustees. Flanagan and Brusky are exhibits 1 and 1A.

Voters should be able to recall township trustees

By Darrell Wacker


Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.

Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.