Supreme court rules in favor of Beavercreek Township

By Scott Halasz -

BEAVERCREEK TOWNSHIP — Ohio’s top court has ruled in favor of the Beavercreek Township trustees in a case filed by the fiscal officer.

Christy Ahrens asked for a writ of mandamus in May 2016, alleging that trustees Carol Graff, Jeff Roberts, and Tom Kretz abused their discretion when they denied her specific salary requests for two positions in the fiscal office. Ahrens asked the court to compel the board to approve and fund the salaries of a lead assistant at an amount of $75,000 to $92,000 a year and an accounts assistant at a range of $50,000 to $65,000 a year.

In its decision handed down Sept. 20, the Supreme Court ruled that although the Ohio Revised Code authorizes Ahrens to hire two assistants and to set compensation subject to prior approval by the board, “she has not demonstrated that the board abused its discretion when it denied her specific salary requests.”

Ahrens made that request in February 2016, and in March 2016 the trustees denied it, instead approving two resolutions creating salaries of $40,515 for the lead assistant and $28,200 for the accounts assistant — which Graff previously said was the median salary compared to other townships with similar structures.

Andrew Pickering, a special assistant Greene County prosecuting attorney representing Ahrens, wrote in the complaint that failure to approve the fiscal officer’s proposed compensation for her assistants was “an abuse of discretion.”

The court did issue a writ ordering the board to rescind the resolutions and to consider a new compensation proposal submitted by Ahrens.

Ahrens was appointed fiscal officer in 2006 and was re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2015. In April 2006, the trustees appointed Deb White to a vacant position — then under the authority of the board — that assisted the fiscal officer. In 2007 the duties and title of White’s position changed to accounts payable/payroll technician.

Also in 2007, Ahrens created the position of assistant to the fiscal officer — an authority allowed under the Ohio Revised Code — and hired James Barone.

In March 2015 the trustees created a finance department and a finance director — Barone — who would answer to the township administrator, not the fiscal officer. Ahrens objected, according to court documents, and alleged that Kretz said if she didn’t agree to the change the board could de-fund the assistant to the fiscal officer position.

In addition to creating the salary range for the assistant positions, the trustees eliminated the finance department and finance director position. According to court records, Ahrens said her intent was to appoint Barone as the lead assistant and White as the accounts assistant, but neither applied for the newly created jobs.

The trustees sued Barone in late 2017, alleging he falsified college degree information and documents. The case was settled in mediation in August 2018.

Neither Township Administrator Alex Zaharieff nor Ahrens could be reached for comment as of press time.

By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.