Chase Township supervisor and clerk step down

CHASE TWP. — In a surprise move, Chase Twp. Supervisor Kenneth Shoemaker, along with Connie Shoemaker, his mother and clerk of Chase Twp. resigned at a township board meeting on Oct. 8.

This resignation comes after months of conflict between the supervisor and the board which culminated in efforts by members of the board and general public to have him recalled. At the Wednesday meeting, Kenneth read a letter to the township board stating his intention to step down by Wednesday, Oct. 22.

"There were multiple reasons that he gave," recounted Chase Twp. Treasurer Janel Eichenberg. "(Among other things) he blamed noncooperation from the board and disruption from township residents."

Strife between Kenneth and the board had been steadily building for months, with board members claiming that he was refusing to share vital information with them regarding township operations.

"People weren't getting the answers they wanted from Ken," said board member Phil Lodholtz. "There was no communication."

Amy Patterson was one of the board members who began the recall effort of Kenneth. She claimed that he would regularly try to silence both board members and members of the public, and refuse to allow any other issues to be brought up at meetings that were not on his agenda.

“If it wasn't something he wanted to deal with, he wouldn't let us address it,” said Patterson. “We would try to put these things on the agenda and he wouldn't let us. It wasn't uncommon for him to scream and shout at people.”

Kenneth said these claims are exaggerations and that his goal was to keep meetings orderly and on track.

"By law, I'm the moderator of these meetings," said Kenneth. "There were stupid and irrelevant things that people kept bringing up and we were there for township business, not irrelevant issues."

Patterson said the supposedly “stupid and irrelevant” topics included issues she believed no resident of Chase Twp. would call irrelevant. She cited topics Kenneth refused to discuss in meetings, such as township maintenance and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Patterson also said that she is relieved that Kenneth is no longer in office.

"I think now we can go to our township board meetings and conduct business," she explained. "He wouldn't let us speak and he wouldn't let people who came to the meetings speak, and that's a key part of those meetings: communicating with the public. Hopefully, now the board meetings will be productive and people can have their citizen's time and everything will be respectful. We're an open board and we want to make sure we're here for the people that we're serving."

Members of the board also said that among Kenneth’s alleged infractions was his refusal to disclose a number of documents describing money spent on a lawyer who was hired to help conduct several cases. These documents included the amount of township funds being used, and on which cases they were being utilized. According to Patterson, this is the core issue behind the recall effort.

"There were several issues in litigation that we aren't even sure what the specifics of them are, because he refused to share that information," said Patterson. "We couldn't tell what money was being spent on what program."

Kenneth countered by saying that the accusation is an outright lie and he did provide this documentation. He further said it was the board which was acting inappropriately. He claimed board members were trying to push a raise through for Chase Twp. Treasurer Janel Eichenberg, would try to intentionally derail and slow down board meetings, and were attempting to put unqualified individuals into election coordinator positions.

Patterson refuted these claims, stating the board followed the rules of the township, everyone they were trying to nominate as election coordinators were both qualified and experienced and the Shoemakers fought those nominations because the election coordinators who were being removed were their personal acquaintances — acquaintances who were not performing their duties in a responsible manner.

“It was all about following his rules,” remarked Patterson. “The board followed proper procedures, but Ken didn't follow proper procedures. For instance, at meetings he was making everyone stand up at a podium to speak, even those using a cane or crutches. That’s not in the rules, he just made that up. When we said it was okay and they didn't have to, he would bang his gavel and tell us we weren't allowed to speak.”

Connie Shoemaker backed up what her son has said on these matters and agreed with him, saying it was the rest of the board members that were preventing things from getting accomplished. Furthermore, she said the documents involving the use of the lawyer were always made available to the board members.

"I always said, 'if you want to see them, I have them,' but they never asked for them," maintained Connie. "I hope the public remembers that before all of this Ken got a lot of good work done for this township. We helped keep the library going, refurbished the cemetery and made sure the roof of township hall was repaired. It's sad. For so many years we (the board) were friends and neighbors, and now that just isn't true any more."

A special meeting is going to be held to determine what will be done regarding the now-vacant positions of township supervisor and clerk. No date has been set yet, although board members have said that it will be soon.

Meanwhile, Kenneth said he is tired of fighting with the board, and that if they are going to "ruin the township" he would not like to be part of it.

"They're blaming me and Connie for nothing getting done so they could get me recalled," claimed Kenneth. "That way they can say 'nothing's getting done and it's Ken's fault.'"

Patterson disagrees.

"That's not why we wanted to recall him," she said. "We wanted to recall him because he refused to show us documents that we should have been allowed to see as members of the board. His total lack of respect is what caused this. He couldn't let anything be out of his control."

Kenneth said he is not preparing any further direct action, but does intend to continue watching the board as a private citizen to ensure if the issues he claimed about the board are true, he can go forward with legal action.

"I don't like the way it went down, but the people of Chase were pushing for this," said Lodholtz. "I think they thought it was just time to throw in the towel."