Laughing up his sleeve

Published 3:41 am Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear editor:

At the Longmeadow Homeowner Association’s (LHA) Annual General Meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2010, Mr. J. Kidwell, Niles Township supervisor, gave a brief progress report on the township’s “State of the Union.”

In answer to a question about the township having its own police department, Mr. Kidwell responded by saying he was still working on it as he believed that it would save the township taxpayers about $150,000, but the board had rejected his proposal in 2009 and hired the services of the county sheriff.

Alarmed at hearing this rejection of a substantial potential saving to the township taxpayers, I wrote a letter by e-mail two days later to the Niles Township supervisor asking for each board member (trustee) to be accountable as to why he/she voted against such a proposal with a tax saving about $150,000; I described a vote for such a possible savings as a “no brainer.”

As I received no response, I followed-up my letter by phoning Mr. Kidwell. He informed me that he had duly sent copies of my letter to each board member and awaited a response. Since I am a township taxpayer who contributes to paying the board members’ salaries, I firmly believe I’m fully entitled to our trustee’s responses. Because I received no responses, I requested Mr. Kidwell to ask them at the next board meeting if they had read my letter and to give me an answer through him. He did just that, but no board members answered him. Thus, I attended the Niles Township meeting on Wednesday evening, Sept. 29, 2010.

At that meeting, with the exception of the chairman and Mr. Bailey (board member), I personally asked each of the other five board members, Mrs. Durm-Hiatt and Messrs. Goodwin, Cooper, Noble, Ringler (treasurer), why they didn’t vote in favor of Mr. Kidwell’s proposal at the 2009 budget meeting that had the hope of saving the township $150,000 by having its own police department. Except for Mr. Bailey and Mr. Kidwell all five trustees persistently evaded my question by simply saying that they voted for the sheriff. Mr. Ringler inferred that being serviced by the sheriff would possibly eliminate any responsibility of law suits against the township due to police conduct.

Likewise, on Sept. 29, 2010, at the 2010 budget meeting, in which there was the possibility of a similar savings of over $150,000 to the township taxpayers, the very same board members mentioned above voted for the sheriff’s services without any discussion whatsoever. Mr. Kidwell reports that none of the five board members has produced professionally audited statements that refute his proposal’s budget figures for a township police department.

I think that the sheriff must be laughing up his sleeve, because he has the Niles Township taxpayer contributing $350,000 per annum into his coffers, by virtue of the township board’s unwisely explicit wording of the millage proposal to the township citizens in 2008, such that it can’t be used for anything, except for the sheriff.

In answer to another question, the chairman reported that the sheriff has not lived up to his contract in providing the promised senior police officers. In response to a further question on this point, the chairman said that to-date the board has made no attempt to request an equitable reimbursement for his “breach” of contract.

The chairman, as supervisor, reported that he had received a number of township taxpayers’ complaints about the sheriff’s officers being outside Niles Township while on duty for the township. Mr. Kidwell asked the sheriff for a response to the complaints, but the sheriff flatly refused to be accountable for his officers’ whereabouts when on duty in Niles Township, despite the fact that the township taxpayers are paying him over $800,000 per annum for his services, for which, a priori, he has to be accountable. “They who pay, have a say,” as the time honored maxim goes.

Shrewd business management of a township board would never allow itself to be trapped into a one-sided arrogant deal without an escape clause. The chairman reported that Buchanan Township’s security is covered by the sheriff’s services for free.

Ever since Niles Township hasn’t had its own police department, I have never seen a police cruiser slowly drive through my neighborhood. Previously, my seeing a township police cruiser drive by always gave me a calming sense of being looked after.

Let’s hope and be given assurance that, when the Niles Township Board wrote the sheriff’s contract and those who voted for the sheriff, had astute business foresight. Foresight that if the sheriff were to breach his contract and refuse to be accountable — as he has done — his contract could be rescinded with compensation to the township taxpayers. Also, one would hope for assurance that the board was smart enough to not burn the township’s “bridges,” but retained all the assets of the township’s former police department, so that Niles Township could readily restore its own police department with minimal costs.


Gerald F. Marshall