Trustee Deny Allegations Of Corruption In Benton Township

By
Gretchen Gregory - The Logan Daily News Editor
Marika Lee - The Logan Daily News staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Mon, Oct 28, 2013 1:16 pm

Benton Township Trustee Robbie Davis is denying allegations of corruption in Benton Township made by trustee candidate Bruce Johnson, and told The Logan Daily News that the allegations could hurt his logging and excavating business.

“We’re a small community and when my name gets involved in something, it can hurt my business,” Davis said.

Davis has been a township trustee for four years, and admits he’s still learning the process, but the township has been audited and nothing major has been found.

“We’ve been audited and we’re doing things right,” he explained. “To my best knowledge, I’ve never signed anything I shouldn’t have. What really makes me mad is saying that I’m corrupt and I’m self-employed. I work for the public, not for the trustees.”

Davis says he’s spent countless hours clearing roads of debris following storms, often working into the early morning hours so people can get to work in the morning.

Johnson claims that Davis, along with trustees Clyde Garrett and Gerald “Dean” Stevens, are employing family members and misusing township insurance. Garrett and Davis are up for re-election this election season. Former trustee David Seymour also is running for a seat.

Johnson said the other two trustees voted for Garrett to be the person who provides permits to install driveways along township roads. After that, a contractor is needed to install the driveway. Johnson is claiming it is nepotism because his son, Tony Garrett, has a construction company.

Johnson’s concerns arose when the trustees accepted a bid from Tony Garrett to build a handicap ramp in 2010. Of the three bids, Tony Garrett had the lowest and his father, Clyde, did not vote.

Garrett admits that the township has hired members of his family, but he did not hire them — the other trustees did.

Trustees’ family members also offered bids for buying equipment from the township in 2012. Tony Garrett and Dean Stevens’ father, Gerald Stevens, placed bids. Of the four pieces of equipment, Tony Garrett received one and Gerald Stevens received another. The highest bidder won each time, but all three trustees voted on the equipment sales.

“As far as I know, when you’re our here bidding, everybody has the right to bid,” Davis said. “We open the bids in front of everybody. I don’t know if there’s a law against it, but I assume if it’s open in front of the public eye, it’s OK.”

“Bruce feels and thinks the way he does. There’s no reason for him to be that way. I told somebody the other day I felt sorry for him. I’ve been friends with him my entire life,” he added.

Davis also said that Johnson apologized for getting him involved behind closed doors, but didn’t want to apologize in the public eye at a township meeting.

“I don’t want to get involved in it, and as far as I know, we’re doing things right,” he said. Johnson and Clyde Garrett don’t like each other, he added.

As previously reported, Hocking County Prosecutor Laina Fetherolf said she is aware of the allegations and the claims are being investigated.

“The hard part is the sheriff’s office can’t investigate because they are ethical violations more than criminal,” she said.

She said once the investigation is complete, it will be sent on to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Clyde Garrett said he has heard Johnson’s claims before.

“He has been giving out all that information and there is no truth to it. He has been proven wrong before,” Garrett said.

Dean Stevens declined to comment because he was unaware of the allegations.

“Nobody is standing up to them, the people need somebody to,” Johnson said.

Benton Township Fiscal Officer Cindy Huffman said last week that the township has passed its audits for the past two years.

“There are no misuse of funds, no violations. (Johnson) has a vendetta against one of the trustees and it is all he does,” she said.

Johnson also claims that one of the trustees receives insurance through his workplace, but is taking the insurance to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses for a family member.

Huffman said trustees are reimbursed for out-of-pocket medical expenses and the two who take it use the single-person coverage plan.

Davis said both he and Stevens have township insurance, but Garrett doesn’t. “But he can get reimbursed what the average of ours is. Say our average is $1,000, the average would be $500. It reimburses what he pays for health insurance. That’s my understanding. The only way he wouldn’t be able to get it would be if we weren’t able to. If we’re getting it, it wouldn’t be fair for Garrett not to get it. It’s saving township money in the long run,” Davis said.

Fetherolf said the township has consistently passed its audits, with only a few findings of possible misuse that were not major enough to warrant an investigation.

“We are looking into it, the problem is finding evidence,” Fetherolf said.

Huffman and Garrett said there is no proof to Johnson’s claims and he is only voicing his allegations because of the upcoming election.

“He is trying to ruin my credibility. He is after me and I don’t know why,” Garrett said.

Johnson said he is looking out for the good of Benton Township, but denied his claims have anything to do with next month’s election.

“My concern is only that the trustees abide by the laws and that our tax dollars are being spent for what they were intended for,” Johnson said.

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