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Hearing postponed in complaint against Veterans Service Commission


Trish Bennett, Editor

CIRCLEVILLE – A status conference originally set for Wednesday to address a complaint against the local Veterans Service Commission has been continued to a later date in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court.

The complaint, filed Feb. 26 and signed by ranking officers of veteran organizations in Pickaway County, alleges a “pattern of misconduct” by board members Tom Tootle, Leroy Fout and Ronald Clifton and requests their removal from the board.

The continuance was granted after the signers of the complaint retained attorney William Archer to represent them. A new date for the status conference has not yet been set.

Signers of the complaint are Terry Brown, commander of VFW Post #3331; Patrick Cherry, commander of AMVETS Post #2256; Michael Struckman, first vice commander of AMVETS Post #2256; Roger Ward, commander of the American Legion Post #134; Ron Brungs, executive chairman of American Legion Post #134; Rebecca Lee, commandant of the Marine Corps League Detachment #830; Robert Meenach, paymaster/prior commandant of the Marine Corps League Detachment #830; Ray Horch, commander of American Legion Post #618; and Joseph Carle, treasurer, American Legion Post #618.

Since Judge P. Randall Knece of the Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas is responsible for appointing members to the VSC board, he has recused himself from the proceedings. Judge John P. Bessey of Columbus has been appointed in his place.

The complaint alleges Tootle and Clifton willfully violated Ohio’s Sunshine Law on Nov. 18, 2014, by participating in a meeting of the VSC board where members of the public were not allowed to be in attendance.

That date was two days prior to a public meeting held Nov. 20, 2014, in which Rebecca Lee, then executive director of the Pickaway County Veterans Service Office, was placed on paid administrative leave by the board pending an investigation into charges of misconduct in office. She was terminated from that position a month later at a meeting held Dec. 18, 2014.

Tootle and Clifton also are accused in the complaint of willfully misleading the VSC board about relevant facts pertaining to a memo between the governor and assistant governor of Veterans Affairs.

The complaint also alleges Clifton violated the Ohio Revised Code regarding the purchase of replacement grave markers for veterans in his township, and that Tootle is being paid under an incorrect line item in the budget, which the signers believe demonstrates a willfully false representation of his duties.

The complaints against Fout all stem from his previous service to the board from October 1989 to October 1994 prior to his resignation and subsequent ban from the Veterans Service Office property. Fout was just appointed back to the board this year.

In addition to these members’ removal, the complaint requests that all future board members be replaced or appointed with the first choice of the nominating executive boards of the veteran organizations they represent.

Each member of the local Veterans Service Commission is also a member of a local service organization. Clifton, president of the board, represents Disabled American Veterans; Bennie Branham represents the VFW; Leroy Fout represents the American Legion; Tom Tootle represents AMVETS; and Dennis Warner represents the Marine Corps League.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal