Chester Trustees Pick New Fiscal Officer
“I hope to take some of the issues that have been going on here and make them go away.” – Craig Richter
Chester Township Trustees selected Craig S. Richter on Thursday to fill the unexpired term of former Fiscal Officer Mike Stark, over Trustee Ken Radtke’s abstention.
Richter and former Fiscal Officer Karen Austin had applied for the elected position, which expires on March 31, 2016.
Radtke said he would prefer to delay the appointment until the township could advertise for more applicants, but Trustees Mike Joyce and Judy Caputo said that a new fiscal officer needed to be in place in time for a Dec. 12 state training session on new Uniform Account-ing Network (UAN) system software.
“We have the end of the year coming up, with the state training program and permanent appropriations,” Joyce said. “These are difficult, trying times in the township and because of the vacancy, we feel it should be filled as soon as possible.”
Stark resigned last month after a year and a half in office, citing neverending drama surrounding township meetings.
Radtke said he understood the necessity of appointing someone before the training session, but thought trustees should advertise, set a deadline for applications and make a decision at their Dec. 2 meeting.
“It’s a window of opportunity to open it up to the community,” Radtke said.
“The timing couldn’t be at a worse time,” Caputo said, noting the fiscal officer, as an elected official, is not accountable to trustees.
“But filling this elected position is absolutely crucial,” she added.
Caputo said trustees had received applications from Richter and Austin.
Radtke said he would prefer the decision be delayed until after Jan. 1, when a new board of trustees takes office, but Joyce said, under Ohio law, an appointment must be made within 30 days of Stark’s resignation.
“Otherwise, Judge (Timothy) Grendell has to decide,” explained Joyce.
“I know that,” Radtke retorted, but reiterated he believed the process should be held to a “higher level of government performance” and open to advertising for more applications.
Caputo and Joyce said they were ready to vote on each name. Caputo nominated Austin and Joyce seconded.
Both then voted no.
“I’m abstaining,” Radtke said.
Joyce next moved to appoint Richter. He and Caputo voted yes. Again, Radtke abstained.
“Congratulations, sir,” Joyce said to Richter.
“Thank you for the support,” Richter said. “I hope to fill the term and serve the township well.”
Radtke told Richter that, despite his abstention, he supported him.
Joyce said he had interviewed Richter and had checked his references. He added Stark had interviewed Richter and had been impressed with his integrity and qualifications.
“I did not want to mention that prior to the vote,” Joyce said.
In other business, trustees reappointed Linda Gifford to a five-year term on the zoning commission, board of zoning appeals alternate Doreen Merritt as a BZA member and BZA member Linda Betzer to the alternate position.
“She’s been on the board for five years and has been a very valuable member,” Joyce said of Gifford. “We need experience on the board right now. By law, they are autonomous and we have no say over them except to appoint them.”
Joyce said the BZA appointments had been requested by both members and the BZA chairman.
Radtke again objected, saying he believed in a “higher level of government” and that the positions should be advertised openly to the community.
“It’s nice to have a higher level, but you also need functionality,” Joyce said.
Caputo said experience is needed on both boards because there will be two new trustees and a new fiscal officer on Jan. 1.
All three issues passed, with Radtke again abstaining.
After the meeting adjourned, Richter said he is a 1982 West Geauga graduate who has lived in the community since 2002. He said he had applied to be appointed fiscal officer when former Fiscal Officer Michael Spellman had gone to prison for embezzling from the township.
Richter, an international tax manager for Nestle Corporation, has served as a volunteer for many community projects, served as treasurer for Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland’s campaign and as treasurer of the West Geauga Recreation Council.
Richter’s wife, Betsy Margolian, is a broker for Merrill Lynch. The couple has two sons, Matthew and Alex, both of whom attend West Geauga Schools.
“I just hope to serve the community,” Richter said. “I’m here to maintain the books and records, and to give information to the trustees so they can make decisions.”
He added, “I hope to take some of the issues that have been going on here and make them go away.”
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