Note: Scroll to bottom of page for case updates shown in chronological
page last updated 5/21/2009
11/21/2008 1:00pm. Petitioners Hearing statement Bowling Green Township Petitioners vs. Trustee Watkins
The case docket is public record on> lcounty.com Courtview2000 update: 404 error on link,??
The filing of the case had an article published in > Newark Advocate 10/03/2008
The Timeline of the Don Watkins illegal ‘Double Dip’
September 10, 2001Letter from Bowling Green Township Clerk to Deborah Kenney, Assistant Prosecutor. Letter requests to put into proper wording a resolution whereby the township will reimburse trustees and clerk for Medicare deduction for insurance. Letter also states, "This can be done and was advised for me to contact you by the legal dept. State Auditor" (letter was presented to the court by defense and only obtained by plaintiff after the hearing)
September 14, 2001Reply letter to Bowling Green Township Clerk from Assistant prosecutor, Deborah kenney. "As it is, I cannot find authority to perform the service that you request." (letter was presented by defense and only obtained by plaintiff after the hearing)
November 9, 2001Letter to Bowling Green Township Clerk from Jim Petro, Auditor of State's Office. Letter states that the following legal opinion was asked by the Clerk: Whether the Clerk of Bowling Green Township may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket premium expense for Medicare and Supplemental Medicare coverage and , if so, what supporting documentation must the Township maintain? Letter also clearly states that the following facts are important to the resolution of this issue...Bowling Green Township provides group health insurance. You, as the clerk, would like your out-of-pocket reimbursement for Medicare to be reimbursed instead of participating in the Township's plan. (Letter was presented by defense and only obtained by plaintiff after the hearing)
December 10, 2001Letter from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Deborah L. Kenney sent to Bowling Green Township Clerk. Letter states, "In light of the opinion of the Auditor of State, you are advised that the township does have the power to reimburse the township trustees and clerk for out-of-pocket premium expense for Medicare and Supplemental Medicare insurance pursuant to the operation of R.C. 505.60. A resolution was also prepared. The letter does NOT state that there can be a reimbursement AND participation in the Townships plan at the same time! (Letter was presented by defense and only obtained by plaintiff after the hearing)
December 27, 2001Trustee Don Watkins made a motion for the following resolution #R-1301-180 There is no place in this resolution allowing for reimbursement to be made to anyone also concurrently participating in the Township's healthcare plan. The resolution was enacted by the Township.
April 30, 2002 - December 30, 2002Reimbursement checks made out to the Clerk's family. Total amount paid by township for reimbursements is $1,296.00 (Information of issued checks was obtained by a record request that was filled on 1/05/2009)
October 2005while at the same time on the Township insurance plan, Trustee Watkins receives first illegal reimbursement check. No indication in the obtained public record files of any board discussions, votes, or abstain from Trustee Watkins exist. Decision was not made properly and also not anyplace in the public or documented.
January 2006Trustee, Jeff Chorpenning begins term in office. Multiple attempts are made to address the question of the reimbursement and Trustee Watkins always insists, "He checked it all out and it was legal". The public continues to ask and gets the same final word from Trustee Watkins for over two years!
March 2008Trustee Chorpenning, in accordance to and following ORC 505.60 and 505.601 took final stance (as a Trustee) on the situation by refusing to sign continuing monthly reimbursement checks presented by the Fiscal Officer to Trustee Watkins.
June 2008The last monthly check was issued. How did it stop? The Township Fiscal Officer, Jennie Duval and Trustee Board President, Dan Vanburen said they would not be signing Trustee Chorpenning's salary check if he did not sign checks in question, including the illegal June reimbursement check. This is a documented public record incident. (*It is also the topic being conveyed when the judge said, "petty politics" as the petitioners vs. Trustee Watkins case was later heard) Total amount of illegal reimbursements to Trustee Watkins to date was $2,969.60.
November 21, 2008lcounty.com Courtview2000 shows the court docket.update: 404 error on link,??
January 5, 2009Trustee Jeff Chorpenning in a final attempt to recover the funds on a township board level, makes motion at a Bowling Green Township Board of Trustees meeting to have Trustee Don Watkins pay the township back for the illegal reimbursements. Sadly no 2nd was made on the motion.
-what is the amount of theft that would have occurred if Chorpenning would
have not intervened?
Using the term of office that Trustee Watkins is now serving, the following helps answer that question:
Trustee Watkins’ current term started in Jan 08. The Jan & Feb 07 checks were for $88.50 and then they went to $93.50 monthly. (Note: this change in amount did not come up "verbally" at a public meeting, so it must have been done behind closed doors between Trustee Watkins and Fiscal Officer Jennie Duval) There is no way to get an exact amount without knowing what the rate will be in 2009 - 2010. Nevertheless: using the $93.50, it can be estimated close. Using the $88.50 for 2 months & then $93.50 for the rest (46 months) that figure would be $4,478.00+! This balance would have continued to escalate every year as additional 4 year election cycles may have been added.
The actual amount the taxpayers of Bowling Green township have paid for
Medicare reimbursements from December 27, 2001 through June 2008 is
$1,296.00 + $2,969.60
see update below of 2/18/2009. Fiscal Officer releases more public record adding an additional 10 checks of +$1,407.80
Note: Adding the newly unveiled additional public records, the actual final amount taxpayers have paid for Medicare reimbursements is
We have elected Trustee Don Watkins for over a quarter of a century to be entrusted with OUR township tax money, Yet…
From October 2005 through June 2008 Trustee Don Watkins had the opportunity to STOP taking illegal reimbursement checks and only stopped because Trustee Chorpenning finally pushed for a legal opinion in 2008 (Basically it was having the prosecutor read the law and put it on their letterhead.) The law has been there all along. Public inquiries did not work, inquiries from Trustee Chorpenning to the Board did not work. Chorpenning’s refusal to endorse checks did not work. Reading the Code to Watkins in public & ASKING HIM TO EXPLAIN HOW HE GOT THERE USING THE VERBIAGE IN THE CODE...did NOT work! Finally June 2008, the last illegal check was issued.
From October 2005 through the time of this notation (January 7, 2009) Trustee Watkins has had the opportunity to pay back the money he took from these illegal reimbursement checks. He has stated on the record, that I will pay it back… but listen carefully because he goes on… "If I have to". There is no doubt of the legality so who is he waiting for to say… "YOU HAVE TO?"
Status as of this notation (January 7, 2009) the case of Trustee Watkins vs. Petitioners of Bowling Green Township is still awaiting a decision from the Court.
1/08/2009 Judge Thomas M. Marcelain Docket Judgment Entry. click here for scanned letter
1/09/2009 Press Release Below
The case of the Double Dipping Trustee!
Today is Friday, January 9, 2009 and refreshing the website at CourtView 2000
the residents can all see Judge Marcelain has put in his final Judgment entry on
the case of Bowling Green Township Petitioners v. Trustee Don Watkins. I chose
not to comment on the case until after this entry was officially added to the
docket. For starters on this writing, it needs to be remembered that I am
the one that picked up the pen as a resident and knocked on fellow
township resident’s doors to see if they agreed it should be put before a court
to hear. It did get before a court and I feel my obligations to assure this
occurred have been fulfilled. As the newest elected Trustee in Bowling Green
Township, the illegal practice was something well in place before my arrival.
How would anyone be aware of this or how it was allowed to occur prior to
sunshine coming into the Halls of Bowling Green Township? I told people I would
be Accountable when entrusted and sworn in to uphold the law, and I take this
obligation literally and seriously. Trustee Watkins clearly lied when he stated
over and over that "he checked it out and it was all legal" On this story, his
long term sordid tale took it so far as to benefit his coffers to the tune to
$2,969.60 ! The full story with timeline is something I am in the process of
drafting for anyone wanting all the details of how Watkins was able to
accomplish his illegal bilking of our taxpayer money. Have no confusion on the
fact that it was illegal for Trustee Watkins to do what he did with OUR money
put into HIS pocket. Trustee Watkins’s arrogance fueled him to keep ‘taking’ our
money even after being questioned about it at public meetings on multiple
occasions over time. One resident even read the specific applicable Ohio Revised
Code 505.60 & 505.601 sections at a meeting and asked how the board could
interpret these sections to allowing Watkins to also take a reimbursement
"concurrently" to being on the Township's health insurance plan? But,
The illegal activity just kept continuing. As a Trustee, I refused to endorse checks in early 2008 forward yet Watkins kept ‘taking’ our money month after month anyway. He touts self-proclaimed ignorance and supposed ‘past practice’ as his guidance, logic and justification. We now know the court determined that there was not enough evidence presented to actually justify removing Don Watkins's from office, for this clear cut illegal double dipping action. The facts still remain that the law was broken and the unlawful activity occurred monthly from October 2005 through June 2008. If I would not have personally pushed for legal opinion as an elected Trustee of Bowling Green Township, the illegal activity most certainly would still be ‘business as usual’, funded by our taxpayer money. The board of trustees put another question to the County Prosecutors office many months ago and still waits answer to… "Does Trustee Watkins have to pay back the illegal reimbursement checks that he took?" Watkins has stated publicly on more than one occasion that "He would pay it back…If he had to." To this date it is unknown who exactly Don Watkins is waiting to hear from to TELL him. Clearly for anyone following this case closely, the Court Case was for ORC 3.07 Removal from office by petition. The judges’ verdict does not exonerate the illegal activity. Will the prosecutor’s office answer the question and when? We do not know? The question remains, will we as township taxpayers get the money back to fill some potholes instead of Watkins pants?
End of 1/09/2008 Press Release
1/17/2009 Press Release published in Buckeye Lake Beacon
If you still question the legality of the double dip... Just read the Ohio Revised Code below:
(A) The board of township trustees adopts a resolution that states that the township has chosen not to procure a health care plan under section 505.60 of the Revised Code and has chosen instead to reimburse its officers and employees for each out-of-pocket premium that they incur for insurance policies described in division (A) of section 505.60 of the Revised Code that they otherwise obtain.
(B) That resolution provides for a uniform maximum monthly or yearly payment amount for each officer or employee, beyond which the township will not reimburse the officer or employee.
(C) That resolution states the specific benefits listed in division (A) of section 505.60 of the Revised Code for which the township will reimburse all officers and employees of the township. The township may not reimburse officers and employees for benefits other than those listed in division (A) of section 505.60 of the Revised Code.
Effective Date: 09-20-1999
audio podcast from OTA
Winter Conference session discussion HB458
clearly HB458 DOES NOT provide an after-the-fact free pass to the corruption that has occurred in Bowling Green Township with the case of the "Double Dipping Trustee". ORC505.60
2/10/2009 Mary Taylor, Auditor of State Auditor of States bulletin 2009-003 clarification on HB458
Special Board of Trustees Meeting 9:00am Topic: Health
Insurance uploaded 2/18/2009
podcast #1 of 1
February 17, 2009 .doc file of Licking County Prosecutors opinion letter Re: Health Insurance / Reimbursement for Medicare Premiums file: #08-518 uploaded 2/18/2009
2/18/2009 Trustee Chorpenning presents an amendment to the board in an attempt to prevent future repeat malfeasance. There is no 2nd. to the motion.
2/18/2009 Fiscal Officer,
Jennie Duval hands Jeff Chorpenning a letter dated January
16, 2009 Subject: In reference to information request dated December 2, 2008.
The public record request specifically asked for "Item #2) copies of any/all checks issued prior to Nov. 2005 for Medicare reimbursements, which were made out to any individuals" Copies of 10 additional checks are attached to the letter she presented. Note: The December 2, 2008 records request from a resident Geary Stepp specifically asked for the request be filled within 10 days. The additional ten checks add up to $1,407.80 dated from 2003 and 2004.
Note: Adding the newly unveiled additional public records, the actual final amount taxpayers have paid for Medicare reimbursements is
$5,673.40 This is contingent upon no additional future records being released by the Township Fiscal Officer.
2/24/2009 Clarifying Resolution
presented (to replace Watkins prior 12/27/2001 #R-1301-180) This time it
is written by Township Legal Council and presented to the board.
Resolution is not accepted by Trustee Watkins and motion made by Trustee
Chorpenning is tabled.
2/28/2009 Watchdog Waiting for Trustee to Reimburse Township Buckeye Lake Beacon Article by Will Kern
'Watchdog' waiting for trustee to reimburse township
At the Jan 2009 township meeting, GOB Watkins, or should I say "double dip" Watkins, was again out to belittle and berate Trustee Jeff Chorpenning. Somehow, he still seems to not grasp or understand what double dipping or putting our money in his pockets means. How the heck he ever justified getting "both" the Cadillac health insurance for himself and his wife, plus an additional "reimbursement" for his personal health insurance premiums still amazes me.
Even the previous year's documents presented to the court to show that then assistant county prosecutor Debbie Kinney had somehow indicated this practice may be have been permissible are not clear that this additional perk was allowable. Not having her, the current county prosecutor and one of our local lawmakers subpoenaed into court plus not having a lawyer represent the petitioners was a real tactical error by Chorpenning and probably doomed this case at the onset. Thus in the end the judge was not able to find for the petitioners. But I do have to admire Chorpenning's determination to do the right thing.
Remember, this case was only about the "removal from office" question and had nothing to do with whether reimbursement must be made. That money is still in Watkins' pocket, even though he says he will pay it back.....when he is told to do so! That statement gets right to the matter of his ethics.
Now "Double Dip" Watkins is apparently even working with the township's current Insurance agent to try to get him to convince the county prosecutor that he is actually "saving" the township money by being old and on Medicare. Instead, he needs to take time to read ORC 505.60 and 505.601. These are not long or complicated sections. I had personally requested that he do this early last year, before this whole issue went out of control. Is there any language permitting using a personal insurance plan as "primary" and using the township insurance as a "secondary" provider? Is there anything about also getting an additional "reimbursement" for the primary insurance costs to boot? I don't think so!
The only actual cost savings to the township occurs when someone decides NOT to participate in the township's health plan. There is nothing stated about BOTH; it is a simple "either/or" type situation. Obviously, the biggest savings occurs when a trustee decides NOT to be on the townships Cadillac health plan and that is also when the "reimbursement" issue comes in. This is voluntary and you are not obligated to take the reimbursement. But let's face it, that is never going to happen with GOB Watkins.
Let's look at some numbers and see how this equates to real savings. The monthly costs the township (really taxpayers) has paid for GOB Watkins and his wife's basic health insurance (excluding vision/dental, etc) has ranged from $1,177 a month in 2001 up to to a whopping $1,565 per month in 2007. That works out to a nice perk of $14,000 to $18,780 a year for the last seven years! Now had he opted out in 2005, when he first became eligible for Medicare and the reimbursements started, he would have been allowed up to a $200 a month "reimbursement" check. So that would be, at the most, $2,400 a year versus up to $18,780 a year! That's a "savings" of approximately $16,000 a year! Add that up for the last three years and you can see we are talking real money. That's enough for a new tractor or dump truck. In addition, until March 2007, "Double Dip" Watkins had the most costly policy (by over $200 a month) of any sitting trustee. All while he was also pocketing the additional "double dip" reimbursement check. Amazingly, now that he is finally the cheapest guy thanks to Medicare and Chorpenning's cost is higher, he and his lynch mob decide to make this an hot issue? What a joke!
So what is "Medicare" anyway? It means the government (taxpayers) already pay for most of his health care costs. So I say, let's call it for what it is, it is "health insurance" that is paid for by all of us. To me the Ohio Revised Code was written around the concept that if a trustee or his wife already has health insurance, he/she can then opt out and get some compensation as a "reimbursement" for that savings to the township. Mind you, the actual reimbursement amount is really set by the board of trustees, via a resolution. Thus the board could make the reimbursement anything they like, up to the amount paid out for the insurance by the township!
To me saving money is NOT by the insurance agent making sure he has one more person on the books and thus gets more money out of the township as a result. A insurance agent obviously has a vested interest in keeping folks on the rolls. Yes, I also agree that the township's costs, when someone is on Medicare (remember this is taxpayer paid insurance) should certainly be lower as a result. But ask yourself, why the heck would this then allow that person to also get a additional "double dip" reimbursement of almost $1,200 a year to boot? That part just doesn't make sense and reeks of blatant abuse. Personally, I still do not see how the past trustees had the guts to approve the Cadillac health care perks in the first place. But it shows that if "we the people" fall asleep, the foxes will certainly come to raid the hen house.
Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township
Resident Jeff Chorpenning and resident Geary Stepp meet with the Clerk of Courts
to ask billing questions.
click link above for information about this fact finding question/answer session.
3/14/2009 Buckeye Lake Beacon, Letter to the Editor by Bowling Green Township Resident, Geary Stepp
"The prosecutor has rewarded GOB Watkins with almost $3,000 taken in illegal reimbursements for health insurance. The moral of the story for any elected crooks out there is don't worry because if you get caught you might have to stop, but you can keep your job and won't have to pay anything back. Oh, it gets even better. Assistant county prosecutor Eric Fox, who works with townships, now claims that due to HB458, if Watkins had paid the money back, the prosecutor would hand it back including any legal fees that might have been incurred!"
3/21/2009www.gearystepp.com posts YouTube video: "Double Dip Don Watkins" Justifies his actions.
5/20/2009 Petitioners make first payment.
On 5/19/2009 the below letter was received.
The Clerk of Courts set up the following schedule:
Monthly payments starting 05/01/2009 22@ $10 each with a final payment being on 03/01/2011 @ $5.84
The total amount ordered by Judge Marcelain for petitioners to pay of $225.84
(This cost breaks down to 144 petitioners owing $1.568 each.)
On 5/20/2009 the petitioners made the first payment of $10 made up of collected pocket change.
The Clerk Of Courts office was very professional and cordial with the transaction. It took a little extra time to go through security lugging a bag of coin however the first payment was made as soon as possible once the first paperwork arrived.
Why pocket change? The message is clear, "A little change" is needed in a system that allows an elected official to keep their job even after clearly violation of the law. Trustee Watkins initiated his own illegal reimbursement payment scheme "taking" the total amount of taxpayers money $2,969.60, and has been recently announcing he is "innocent" of his clear malfeasance ." Watkins orchestrated the illegal scheme, collected ill-gotten gains and now keeps "OUR" money in his pants. This clearly illustrates the need for "A little change". The illegal reimbursement checks were all initiated by Watkins and cashed by Watkins. It WAS illegal, still IS illegal and Watkins has decided to KEEP the illegally acquired public money. Taxpayers are out by $2,969.60!
Township watchdog Will kern
www.will-kern.com posts video entitled, "How many dips for Trustee, "Double
Dip" Don Watkins?
5/23/2009 online edition Buckeye Lake Beacon
'Watchdog' sniffs out savings on health insurance
I would like to publicly thank Bowling Green Township Trustee Jeff Chorpenning for taking on the taboo subject of health insurance. After attending each of the trustee meetings leading up to this year's insurance debate, it was evident that only Chorpenning wanted to talk about changing the health insurance package or even getting quotes from other carriers. There wouldn't have been any competition if Chorpenning had not asked Ohio Insurance Services to participate and submit a bid. So finally in 2009, we actually did have an open competition, with real numbers on the table.
Initially, trustees voted to accept the offer from Ohio Insurance Services, which would have saved the township about $20,000 per year. This was a Health Savings Account (HSA) style plan versus the previous township zero deductible plan, which the township has had for many years now. But sadly this was not to be, since assistant county prosecutor Eric Fox shot it down. He deemed the change amounted to an interim increase/ change that could not be done until the next election cycle. Plus he indicated the board should have had a formal resolution in place to even allow for this sort of a interim change.
I'm not sure I understand that logic, since this plan change was not a benefit increase for the trustees, but rather a major savings for taxpayers. As a result of his opinion, township taxpayers will end up paying about $3,400 versus $1,720 A MONTH just for basic health insurance for three trustees and their families. This does not include the cost of the dental, life, cancer, disability plans either. Yes folks, that's a $40,800 a year expenditure right off the top.
What is confusing to me is that when the last change in insurance carriers was made in March 2007, the county prosecutor's office did not step up and call it an interim increase or change. Nor was anything said in October 2005, when Trustee Don Watkins got his first illegal Medicare reimbursement check. Were these not considered an interim change or in Watkins's case, an actual increase in compensation? So what was different on either one of these changes?
Well on neither occasion was there any open public discussions or deliberations by the board! Somehow the extra Watkins reimbursement checks just started rolling off the presses in October 2005 and get signed by the board each month. When the insurance carrier was changed in 2007, only the fiscal officer knew what was going on. Nothing was brought to the table for the board to review or discuss, let alone actually that formal action on. So these changes were made out of sight, solely by the fiscal officer initiating a reimbursement check and later changing insurance carriers? Or were these issues actually discussed in private which means the Open Meetings Law was violated.
What I know for certain is that Chorpenning was NOT there in 2005 nor did he know about the 2007 insurance carrier change until after it was made. In fact, he did not even get the new policy booklet until many months later, when I started asking for public records from the fiscal officer. There was never a formal resolution made by the board to even allow the new insurance company to work on a new policy for the township. How then was that even possible?
But in 2009, we have at least one trustee that made sure that health insurance issue was brought to the table, discussed publicly and competitive offers were considered. Now, if the current board gets a new resolution in place in the next few months, as assistant county prosecutor Eric Fox indicated, the board can then move to the HSA plan and get some real savings ($20,000 a year) in the next cycle. But this depends on who is representing your best interests after the November election. So think carefully when you decide whom to support for trustee and ask all the candidates some hard questions. Then don't forget to make sure they follow through on any promises they make.
Based on what I have seen, I know where my vote is NOT going to go in November. I hope we have new president of the board. After eight years, it's high time to get someone new into that chair. Anyone up for the challenge? I hope Chorpenning runs again for one more term, but with a new person next to him. Could 2009 finally end my watchdog stint?
"WATKINS ASKING FOR & ACCEPTING A MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENT CHECK WAS DEEMED ILLEGAL & IS STILL DEEMED ILLEGAL BY THE STATE OF OHIO TODAY! BUT HE STILL INSISTS HE DID NOTHING WRONG & EVEN FURTHER HE IS STILL KEEPING THE MONEY HE OBTAINED ILLEGALLY. TO ME THERE IS JUST SOMETHING REALLY ETHICALLY WRONG WITH THIS SORT OF LOGIC! HOW ABOUT YOU?" Will Kern
Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township