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Trustee files suit against township



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The clerk believes the trustee is trying to get publicity in an election year.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Township Trustee Judy Bayus has filed a lawsuit against the township and her fellow elected officials asking the court to stop destruction of tape recordings of trustees meetings.

Bayus filed the lawsuit Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court through Warren Atty. Frank R. Bodor. It names the township, Clerk Carmen Heasley and trustees William Reese and Paul Moracco as defendants.

Moracco declined to comment because he hadn't seen the lawsuit. Reese couldn't be reached.

Bayus contends that at a Feb. 28 trustees meeting, Moracco and Reese voted to "have existing tape recordings of all official township meetings destroyed." She voted against that resolution.

Bayus believes that was an attempt to destroy tape recordings she may need as part of another lawsuit she's filed against the defendants. That complaint deals with a road development project.

"I think this is an attempt to hide this evidence if it should be needed."

Heasley said that the resolution wasn't about destroying tapes.

"All we wanted to do was start reusing our tapes," the clerk said.

The township is running out of space to store all of its information. She said the resolution was to deal with tape recordings of meetings from the time of the resolution on. It wasn't about tape recordings previously made, Heasley said.

"This trustee should know better," she said, referring to Bayus.

Heasley said nothing has been destroyed, and to do that she would have to get permission from the state.

Getting permission

Atty. Mark Finamore, who represents the township, said townships may destroy records if a records commission -- made up of the trustees chairman, township clerk and county auditor -- asks and receives approval from the Ohio Historical Society.

"I'm not aware that the records commission has met and proscribed any action to destroy records," Finamore said.

Bayus said the motion doesn't mention any records commission and she believes trustees and the clerk intend to destroy the tapes.

"She's reading all of that into it," Heasley said.

Bayus is trying to get publicity in an election, the clerk charges.

The lawsuit, which asks for $1,000 from each defendant for the threatened violation, is asking the judge to set a hearing to issue an injunction to stop the destruction of records.

It also asks that attorney fees be paid by each defendant individually and that they be prohibited from making the payments from township funds.

"I'm dismayed at the lack of community interest in attending Canfield Township trustees meetings to see the actual operation of their government," Bayus said. "Reliance on rumors seems to be the norm, whether truthful or not."




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