Maybe we're naive, but we hope local governments have made strides toward openness in the decades since Perkins Township Trustee Bill Dwelle was elected to his first stint on the trustee board in the 1960s. But Dwelle returned to public office this year, and he seems to be behaving as if the board is a one-man show rather than a three-person deliberative body where the majority rules.
In the past 12 months, Dwelle's behavior as a trustee has raised concerns in a number of areas. Is it really appropriate for Dwelle's wife to be snooping around, camera in hand, hoping to snap a photo worthy of the National Enquirer of a township employee? We don't think so.
Is it appropriate for Dwelle to sit on a legitimate invoice from the police department to the school district billing for the police overtime costs caused by the teachers strike? The invoice was submitted to trustees in late September, and the other trustees, Tom Pascoe and Tim Coleman, both assumed it was being forwarded to school district Treasurer Lisa Crescimano for payment. Crescimano knew the invoice was coming and was prepared to pay it.
But it wasn't sent to her or to the school board for nearly two months, per Dwelle's orders, according to township Fiscal Clerk Pamela Hartung-Kellem. Dwelle offered no reasonable explanation why he ordered the bill to limbo. When pressed, he said he had recently been in contact with Crescimano to discuss an alleged discrepancy in the bill, but Crescimano said she hadn't had any recent discussions with him. The bill wasn't sent to the school district until after Dwelle was questioned about it, and his responses were not exactly straightforward and open.
Ordering the invoice not to be sent is particularly disconcerting because trustees are in the middle of a budget battle to make township revenues meet expenditures next year. What does it do to the level of trust the public has in the budgeting process when one of the three trustees seeks to dominate that process and make decisions without a majority vote?
It's also troubling that the invoice Dwelle sat on was from the Police Department. What was he trying to prove? We don't know for sure, because Dwelle didn't offer any reasonable or coherent explanation. We just hope he is not harboring any personal animosity toward the Police Department, or toward other township departments, that clouds his judgment. We urge Mr. Dwelle to put aside any personal differences he might have with any department heads and make decisions based on what is the right thing to do, and what the board majority wants done.
A 2-1 vote is a majority, Mr. Dwelle. You would be wise to remember that.