Just two months after Jerusalem Township Trustees Joe Gray and Rodney Graffis eliminated reimbursement of training costs for elected officials to save money, Gray and Graffis agreed to reimburse a part-time trustees’ assistant to attend a zoning seminar.
Karen Rogalski will get reimbursed by the township for out-of-town training costs.
Rogalski, who retired as assistant to the trustees last December, was rehired recently by Gray and Graffis. Rogalski had retired because she was eligible to receive her Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).
Trustee Joe Kiss, who had voted against eliminating training costs, said Rogalski should pay for her own expenses, just like the rest of the township.
“Gray and Graffis are playing favorites by paying for Rogalski to attend a seminar, but nobody else’s,” said Kiss, who was opposed to rehiring Rogalski, of Ottawa Hills.
Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest said she paid her own way when she attended a training seminar in Columbus.
“I went to the auditor of the state’s open government training in Columbus and paid for it out of my own pocket,” said Van Nest. “And I have done that several times in the past without asking for reimbursement. I won’t forego training in the future because I think it’s important enough that I go.”
Graffis said he goes to a training seminar once per year and expects to pay his own way when he attends later this year.
“I end up missing three days of work with my real job. I lose money all the way around on that, even when they did reimburse me. I intend on paying for the next seminar out of my own pocket. I’m getting paid by the residents of the township to do this job. This is not my full-time job. It’s part-time. I never once, when I ran, inquired how much did it pay, or inquired about insurance or anything like that.”
Graffis said Rogalski is getting reimbursed because her training will “benefit the township.”
“Did we eliminate the training for our maintenance guys for chainsaw training? No. We paid for that. We don’t ever turn our employees away from going to training or seminars. If it’s going to benefit the township, then by God, they’re going to go to it.”
Kiss said the chainsaw training had been approved before Gray and Graffis dropped health insurance coverage and training costs.
“I know because I passed the motion to reimburse them for chainsaw training,” said Kiss.
Kiss and Van Nest and Gray, Graffis and Rogalski have been caught up in fiery arguments since Kiss was elected as trustee, and Van Nest beat former Fiscal Officer Don Murray, in the general election two years ago. Murray was a close ally of Gray’s and Graffis’s.
Rogalski filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged Kiss harassed her based on her sex and age. The Commission, on April 2, determined there was no probable cause to believe that Kiss engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice, and the matter was dismissed. Rogalski has appealed the decision.
Kiss and Van Nest questioned the need to send Rogalski to the zoning seminar because the township has its own zoning inspector who is qualified to teach the classes that will be taught at the seminar.
“I don’t know why she is involved in zoning, since she only works 10 hours per week,” Van Nest said of Rogalski. “We hired her to get some of our grant work done. We already have a zoning inspector who is very knowledgeable. He has actually written some of the material that will be taught at seminar that she will be attending. We could put her to better use in other areas.”
“Why are we sending a part-time secretary to a zoning seminar when we already have a zoning inspector? This is a waste of taxpayer funds. It’s ridiculous,” he said.