(by Rachel Scofield, Staff Writer - April 04, 2009)
Franklin Township Trustee Don Cook voted against lessening the workload of the new township financial officer, Bonnie Watkinson
“I’m going to lay it all on the table, (you’re making the job easier) because she’s your sister-in-law,” Cook said to Trustee Tim Guyton.
At a special meeting held March 26, the other two trustees voted to move bill-processing duties from Watkinson to secretary Sandy Hodge.
Guyton said Hodge expressed a willingness to accept more responsibilities and the township would increase her pay. The amount of her raise has yet to be determined.
As Watkinson learns the job, the trustees may remove more duties until her position better fits the state’s description of a financial officer’s responsibilities.
Guyton suggested that payroll processing may be the next burden to lift because “we recognize that it is not the financial officer’s job.”
Additionally, Fire Chief Rick Howard is researching how to accommodate Watkinson if she prefers to work from home rather than the township offices.
“During the interview process, we said ‘it’s a tough job – there’s a lot to it,’” said Cook. “She was willing to take the job the way it was.”
“During the interview process we discussed relieving (some of the workload),” Guyton said.
“It has run this way for years,” Cook said. “I don’t know if the new financial officer is not capable or not willing to do the job. If she didn’t want to do the job then she shouldn’t have sat there and said so.”
“You keep using the words ‘not capable’. That’s not a fair term to use,” Guyton said.
Cook also said that whoever accepted the position should have “started immediately, but instead we had to wait six weeks.”
The previous financial officers, including Cook’s wife, Crystal, chose to be “hands-on,” but it was a liability to the township to have so much work on one person, Guyton said.
The trustees appointed Crystal before Don became a trustee.
“Now’s the perfect time (to alleviate the workload). She’s starting out light and on the correct foot,” Guyton said. “I don’t think Bonnie knows what she’s gotten into until she gets started.”
Watkinson fills the seat vacated by Kathryn Wihl, whose elected term expires at the end of the year. To remain financial officer, Watkinson would need to win the November election.
Jennifer Hudson, chief advising attorney for the Ohio Ethics Commission, agreed that there is nothing wrong with Watkinson’s appointment since she is related by marriage and not by blood.
“Usually when we’re talking about close family members, we’re not talking about an in-law unless they are residing with the official. No law prohibits that. What it prohibits is a spouse, parent, child, something along those lines,” said Hudson.