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Issue of July 30, 2014
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Spencer Township residents seek transparency


January 29, 2014 | 09:12 AM

Many Spencer Township residents left Monday night's meeting of the township trustee and his advisory board with more questions than answers.

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Attendees of the Spencer Township advisory board meeting line the front wall of the Frenchtown Community Center on Monday evening, waiting to sign in, while dozens of others are already seated. Submitted by Sandy Dubois (click for larger version)
The meeting, which was moved from Township Trustee Donald Satterfield's home, where the township office is located, to the Frenchtown Community Center, which is operated by the trustee, to accommodate the anticipated crowd.

Susie Flock Weigle, who was elected last month to the three-member advisory board to fulfill the seat of her late father, Kenneth Flock, presided over the meeting. Weigle said the other two advisory board members, Ed Sieg and Bob Smith, elected her as chair.

"We will allow taxpayers, considering there's a lot of you here, to question the budget/annual report," she said.

Weigle added that the meeting was a requirement before the annual report could be published next week in this newspaper.

Questions quickly arose about what was in the budget since copies were not made available to all attendees. And what was being circulated only had the expenditures and revenue for the community center.

Interest in the township trustee's budget came to light last fall after Satterfield ended a contract with LifeSpan Resources that allowed the nonprofit agency to serve hot lunches at the center on weekdays. Satterfield had indicated the contract was terminated due to an increase in utilities when the center was used by LifeSpan.

Bill Dubois, whose wife, Sandy, was the meal coordinator for LifeSpan, said that they were not just interested in the community center budget, but the overall budget for the township.

"We want to see documentation of what was spent and who it was paid to," Phyllis Patterson said. "I've seen no documentation ... Anyone can prepare numbers on a piece of paper."

Satterfield told Patterson that she could come to his house at 8 o'clock the next morning and he'd "dig them all out" for her.

Weigle, who said she thought she "was being kind" by allowing the public to ask questions, apologized several times during the approximate one-hour meeting, saying she was "brand new" to the board.

"I do want this to run well," she said. "This is my township, too, kids. ... We used to get along. I can be objective. ... If I've made a mistake, I'm sorry; we'll try to correct it."

Some who spoke thanked the advisory board, especially Weigle, for their work as elected officials and Satterfield for his years of dedication and his accomplishment of getting the community center.

However, "there's frustration on both sides," Ray Saylor said. "Transparency is what we're looking for."

He and others pointed out that, with just one electric meter for the entire building, which also houses firetrucks and equipment for the Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept., there's no accurate way to determine how much electricity the community room uses.

"A two-meter system might be worth looking into," Saylor said, adding that people also need to offer solutions that are best for the township, not individuals.

Belinda Smith commented that Satterfield could have better prepared the seniors for canceling the contract with LifeSpan and encouraged him and the advisory board to find a way to allow the senior meal program to return.

When June Bary asked if Satterfield had considered taking less pay (he is the highest paid of the 12 township trustees in the county), Weigle reminded her that the purpose of the meeting was to talk about last year, not the future.

One man said the group understands that "there's just not money to throw away," but those who gathered at the center for the meals and fellowship had offered to pay more to help with the utilities' shortfall.

A woman asked if donations could be made to help, to which the township attorney, David Layson, replied yes.

Satterfield said there was a donation box in the center, "but there was never any money in it."

Several in the room said that wasn't true.

In response to Sandy Dubois' question about where the money went for 2013 that was budgeted in 2012, she was told that utility costs were higher than expected.

Sieg said the budget was "running in the red."

After about 60 minutes of questions and comments, the advisory board unanimously approved its annual report.

"We thought you would be reading the amounts," Patterson said after the vote.

Weigle initially offered the account amounts for viewing after the meeting but then read them, which prompted additional questions.

The taxpayers were told that some "adjustments" had been made after an audit by the State Board of Accounts.

Weigle, who provided her phone number to the residents, said she hoped they had made some progress in bringing the community back together.

Court sets pre-trial conference

A pre-trial conference has been scheduled in the case of the People of Spencer Township vs. Spencer Township Trustee Donald Satterfield.

The "people" are questioning Satterfield's competency to perform the duties of his office.

The pre-trial conference is set to take place Thursday, Feb. 6, at 10 a.m. in Harrison Circuit Court, located on the third floor of the county courthouse.

The petition of the court was made in October after a group of Spencer Township residents were unhappy with Satterfield's decision to end a contract with LifeSpan Resources that allowed LifeSpan to serve hot lunches on weekdays at the Frenchtown Community Center, which is operated by the Spencer Township trustee. The residents began to question the township's budget but were unsatisfied with answers.

Attorney C. Gregory Fifer, with Applegate Fifer Pulliam LLC in Jeffersonville, has been retained by the plaintiffs. Corydon Attorney David Layson is representing Satterfield.

  1. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 09:55 AM

    I recently saw in your paper annual reports for a few other townships. It seems to me that Mr. Satterfield is up front with his salary where as other trustees have hidden expenses they are receiving. They are getting internet service paid for, a portion of their electric bills paid, meals for their meetings, gas for their vehicles, insurance, etc. These other expenses and benefits paid out are considered as pay. Mr. Satterfield list his up front with no hidden expenses. The annual report showed none of these other expenses that other township trustees have. You would think being a journalist you would do a little fact finding. After all these reports appear in your own paper!

  2. print email
    Spencer Township Meeting
    January 30, 2014 | 12:53 PM

    I just finished reading the article about the township budget meeting on the Corydon Democrats website. It sounds as though Mrs. Weigle was'nt really prepared very well to answer the questions. I think I would have prepared myself better with the facts before I chose to be the spokesperson. I thought it was disrespectful that she referred to those present as" kids". When the person asked about donations to keep the seniors in the center was brought up, the trustees lawyer stated that donations could be accepted. If that was true, then why did he turn down a donation from the Rennirt family, and the St. Bernards" church mens" group? Also, what kind of adjustments were made to the budget? As far as the competency hearing that is set for February 6th for the trustee, is the judge presiding an impartial out of the county judge? There are so many questions!!! If you go to the Corydon Democrats website, you can read a response to the Democrats article. The person responding must be someone on the trustees board, or a member of his family, as they seemed to know a lot of other trustees budgets, and what is considered the trustees pay or salary. they also said the annual report showed,didn't show any of the expenses that other trustees have, published on this townships report. How did this person see the annual budget report, when it has't been published yet? I think that proves that an " insider" had to have written the response letter that is published on the website. They chose not to sign their name. They must be a coward to not sign their name. Thank You for giving me an opportunity to write this ! I hope this letter makes others question things!

    Kelley Hall
  3. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 12:58 PM

    You point out that other trustees clearly identify all their expenses. We ask the same. We have to guess at what Mr. Satterfield is paying for. He reports high energy expenses but will not tell us what portion is for community room, the firehouse, his office. We have to rely on any information we can get...such as the propane company telling us that bills submitted close together were for one tank at the Center/Firehouse and one for the store.
    If Mr. Satterfield does not have internet access, we wish he would get it to refresh his memory about his duties and all the laws that apply to an elected officials responsibility to the public. We would also be glad to pay his meals and mileage to attend training and update meetings.
    You must be a Board Member because taxpayers were told they could not have a copy of the Annual Report until it comes out in the paper next Wednesday. Or, does the trustee give the report to some and deny it to others? Why aren't you willing to state your name and stand behind your statements?
    Ask the editor of this paper if she has tried to interview the trustee to do fact finding. My guess is she has and he refused.

    Rebecca Rennirt
  4. print email
    donation
    January 30, 2014 | 01:17 PM

    I have 2 questions that I would LOVE to have answered...

    1) it said that donations would be accepted and yet when the Seniors, churches and others offered to donate money to keep the site open they were refused. Why?

    2) during all this bad weather that the area has seen in the past couple of weeks and will most likely see again soon...why wasn't the center opened up for those who lost power and/or needed a warm place to stay. Or have meals, a hot cup of coffee or a cot at the ready for the road crews and emergency personnel that were out in cold and frigid temps?

    Just wondering if those who are supporting the current board members would like to answer that?

    Joshua DuBois
  5. print email
    Spencer Township
    January 30, 2014 | 01:38 PM

    Mr. Satterfields also stated that there was a donation box at the community center...who had access to it and if there were donations in it and how did they account for it and how was it reported?

    Cindy Ross
  6. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 01:46 PM

    Let me make a few things perfectly clear:
    I am not a board member, family member nor have I seen the 2013 Annual Report. I simply did my homework & pulled up prior years reports from Spencer & other townships. These can be found on line & at the library.
    I'm simply a taxpayer that does his homework rather than take someone's word for it.

  7. print email
    response
    January 30, 2014 | 02:12 PM

    To Whom It May Concern:
    Since you are not signing your name we are not sure how to address you so the above salutation will have to do.
    I think all the taxpayers are also doing their due diligence in trying to get accurate information. They are doing their research and investigating just as you are.
    The one thing that is a constant in everything I have seen is...answers. The people want answers as to why the center was closed? Offers were made to keep it open by the citizens and others that wanted to help. But NOTHING was done to work with the people of Spencer Township to keep the center opened.
    Budgets are just that...budgets. Monies to run whatever facilities and or organizations that the county deem necessary. I for one (as do others) think that the center was necessary to the seniors. Now it is just an empty building collecting dust. It isn't even being utilized to raise money through functions like receptions or the like.
    So don't say that the Spencer Township citizens aren't doing their homework. They are doing just what you are doing. Research, questioning and trying to get the answers they need to resolve this situation. Instead all they get are deaf ears.

    Joshua DuBois
  8. print email
    Donations
    January 30, 2014 | 03:49 PM

    I would like to clarify this "Donation Box" our Trustee keeps referring. There was a blue metal tool box that sat on the table just as you came in the door to pay for their meals. Cost of the meals was a suggested donation to all seniors 60 and older or disabled at $2.00 and under 60 the suggested donation was $4.69. If you could not pay you were never turned away. Everyone was welcome regardless of age, income or where you lived. The seniors had a coffee fund jar that set out everyday for donations to fund the activities held for the seniors. Donations to buy bingo prizes, bunco prizes, coffee, tea, sugar and condiments. Any of the little extras that the seniors wanted. These donations also were used to buy cleaning supplies, hand soap and toilet paper. I personally kept a running ledger posted for everyone to see how much money was collected and exactly what money was spent complete with all reciepts. I never wanted anyone to question where their money was spent. Even with something as simple as their coffee fund I provided complete transparency. So if our trustee came up after our operating hours he would indeed find an empty box as its not very responsible to leave money setting out overnight.
    The seniors did offer to pay extra for their meals to go towards the utilities. I believe this entire community would have come together to generate addition funds to keep this senior meal program had it been brought to their attention. But it wasn't!

    Sandy Dubois
  9. print email
    Response
    January 30, 2014 | 04:21 PM

    Does anyone really care what an anonymous person has to say? I know I don't.

    June Bary
  10. print email
    Sitting around
    January 30, 2014 | 09:49 PM

    I saw many of the photos that were in the paper of the "activities" at the center..My question... How many hours did people sit around..shoot the breeze.. Drink coffee ...play cards after the meal? All of this requires electricity ...heat...water etc.
    Do this in someone's dining room..not on taxpayers dimes.
    2 meters requires more money being spent to rewire the breaker boxes etc..Doesn't Ray Saylor live in Lanesville?

    Kim Black
  11. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 07:33 AM

    A comment and then a couple of questions. Either way this investigation into the Spencer Township Trustee turn out, the residents of Spencer Township are the losers. Some of the members of the FB group "Save the Community Center in Spencer Township" while not residents, seem to be willing to go to any lengths to find wrong doing on Satterfield or members of his family. Satterfield and his family have all but been accused of theft without any proof on this FB page. That does not come without repercussion now days. During the time Satterfield is trustee all legal proceedings involving the Trustee are paid for by the Spencer Township residents. The 1800 residents living in the township are footing the bill. If the man is guilty of something it is money well spent. However, if this is a personal vendetta by 200 members of this FB page because they are angry that Satterfield cancelled the contract with Lifespan it is wrong the residents are paying for it. And before ANYONE makes any assumptions I am not on ANY side with this comment.

    I have two questions;
    Has the Corydon Democrat offered to interview the Spencer Township Trustee and/or the board members? If not, why not?

    Has the Corydon Democrat offered to interview Lifespan to see why they are not willing to serve the Senior meals at the Frenchtown Community Center any longer? A copy of the email correspondence between Lifespan and Susie Flock Weigle confirming this was hanging up at the meeting Monday night?

    Thank You

    John Smith

  12. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 09:59 AM

    To the person who asked about Ray Saylor's residency, he and his wife moved from Corydon to the Depauw area in May 2004. Their home is in Spencer Township. And he never did live in Lanesville.

  13. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 03:04 PM

    John Smith, is that the best you can do? If you feel the Satterfields have been treated so unfairly, why didn't you stand up for them Monday night?


    Jane Doe
  14. print email
    Should have done your homework earlier
    February 01, 2014 | 01:19 PM

    I would like to see a list of each of what all township trustees are paid, along with any employees. Then compare that to the population of the township. I read in the public notices that the Trustee in Harrison Township is making about $11k last year, while Mr. Satterfield has been drawing $17k-18k according to reports. However, Harrison Township has 12,484 population versus Spencer at 1,855. To me, that looks to be out of line. I also think that the people that have recently discovered this should not be patting themselves on the back so much. The Trustee in Spencer seems to have been drawing the highest trustee salary in the county for decades, yet people in the area only started complaining about it when the Trustee made a decision they disagreed with. Where were they in questioning this over the past 20 or 30 years? A report is printed in this newspaper every year. Seems to me that the Trustee there is overpaid, but the residents there let it go, and now there are sour grapes.

  15. print email
    February 03, 2014 | 09:08 PM

    For those who think socializing and fun and games are a waste of taxpayer dollars,have you been watching the Annual Reports from other townships? Taylor Township support South Harrison Parks, South Central Baseball, South Harrison Seahawks. Morgan Township supports Harrison County Parks (I've heard entry fee to Buffalo Trace is paid for all Morgan Township residents.. Jackson Township supports Harrison County Parks. Sounds like a lot of fun and games to me. Or are fun and games just a waste of money for old people?


    Rebecca Rennirt
  16. print email
    February 04, 2014 | 12:17 PM

    Why is Ms. Rennirt so eager to spend Harrison County taxpayers money when she is a resident of Kentucky???

  17. print email
    Not Vendetta
    February 04, 2014 | 02:30 PM

    As one of the more than 200 citizens that make up the referenced FB group, "Save the Community Center in Spencer Township"¯, I feel I must respond to the allegation of "personal vendetta"¯.
    Let me begin by stating that, yes we are upset at losing the use of our beloved Community Center. It was an extremely successful program that benefited many in the community. After the announcement of the decision, our initial response was that we would simply meet with Spencer Township Trustee, Donald Satterfield, and work out a solution that would allow the program to continue.
    At the very first encounter our group was treated with hostility and indifference. Our questions were ignored and our monetary offers to help support the continuation of the program were either ignored or flatly declined.
    Mr. Satterfield could have avoided this entire situation had he and his board simply treated us as valued citizens with real concerns. Prior to this decision, we were happy in our ignorance of how much money the Township Trustees receive and are "trusted"¯ to use for the benefit of their townships. In thirty- nine years, we had never questioned the process. Term after term, we reelected Mr. Satterfield with confidence that he was doing a great job.
    Out of frustration, due to the brick wall we met in trying to work with the Trustee to solve the issue of canceling the senior lunch program, we turned to studying the budget to try to find funding that might be used to keep the program going. What we found there was surprising and a little alarming, not the least being the salaries paid to the Trustee and his Clerk. We checked other townships in Harrison County and found that Spencer Township Trustee and Clerk were being paid several times what other Trustees and Clerks were being paid.
    We attended many meetings involving different public offices, to seek answers, and again were stonewalled. We were told that the budget did include funds to continue the lunch program at the Frenchtown Community Center. We were also told that even if the funds were approved for this activity it was up to each Township Trustee to spend the funds as they saw fit. As far as salaries, we were told that the Trustees set salaries and determine raises in pay. When the question was asked why the Spencer Township Trustee's compensation package was so much higher than the others in Harrison County, we were told it was because Mr. Satterfield "used to"¯ have more responsibilities. Most of these prior duties have long been stripped from the township Trustee's responsibility, but the salary had not decreased even though actual job requirements have been became minimal. We questioned that if indeed the budget was "running in the red"¯ as stated by the Trustee and his Board that maybe salary adjustments might be in order. Naturally, this suggestion was ignored.
    Mr. Satterfield started this situation by his decision to end the contract with LifeSpan and conclude the lunch program at the Frenchtown Community Center without providing proof of the need to do so. Any legal fees that are being incurred could have been avoided had Mr. Satterfield simply treated us as friends and neighbors and not as hostile invaders without rights to question his authority. The issue would have been resolved quietly had he simply worked with us to find a solution. His office opened this "Can of Worms"¯ and holds full responsibility for what has transpired.


    Phyllis Patterson
  18. print email
    Not Vendetta
    February 04, 2014 | 02:32 PM

    For some reason the comment cut off my name so will sign again.
    Phyllis Patterson
    Spencer Township

    Phyllis Patterson
  19. print email
    February 04, 2014 | 03:40 PM

    Ms. Patterson I have a few comments and questions. You start out your comment by stating, and I quote, "As one of the more than 200 citizens that make up the referenced FB group, "Save the Community Center in Spencer Township"Ā¯. I must remind you that not all of these members are in fact Spencer Township residents! So indeed you are asking the rest of the 1600 residents in Spencer Township to use our tax paying dollars to support your program. I don't think any one is saying this is not a great program. You and your constituents received more than your fair share of tax dollars on behalf of all of Spencer Township residents. This was not a required program although it did give a lot of seniors a great deal of joy. Not all agree with what your group is doing nor stand for. It is one thing to be passionate about a topic that is near and dear to your heart, but it is totally something else when you yourself have stated that you have went to other avenues to try to get the seniors back in to the facility. To no avail you have been told that the Trustee has the final say. Your group has not fought a fair fight. If you do not want to be met with hostility than do not make accusations of fraud, embezzlement, or theft. I believe Mr. Satterfield, my Trustee, is making a tough decision to not benefit a few township residents, but to benefit all.
    Let me ask you this Ms. Patterson...you are running for advisory board, so if you get the position will you only do what will benefit you and your family members or will you make the tough decision that need to be made for all of the citizens of Spencer Township? As an elected official you have a fiduciary right to all of the citizens! Now there is no need for your group to attack any ones comments nor vise-versa. These are simply point of views and we can agree to disagree on this topic. We will see at election time what the taxpayers of Spencer Township really think.
    C Crawford
    Spencer Township Taxpayer

  20. print email
    February 07, 2014 | 01:13 PM

    I have not met one person in Spencer Township, personally, who does not want the Senior's lunch program. NOT ONE. In the same way...I have not met anyone in Spencer Township who agrees with the salaries of the Trustee or Clerk.
    I welcome anyone to help fight this injustice...I don't care where you live.

    June Bary
  21. print email
    February 08, 2014 | 12:21 PM

    I have a question. What is the hearing and law suit for? I'm trying to understand. Is the law suit against the Township or Trustee and what are you suing for? I'm just trying to have an understanding of the situation. It's so confusing, but I want to show my support.

  22. print email
    February 10, 2014 | 12:44 PM

    So how much are the utility bills now?

  23. print email
    February 10, 2014 | 04:24 PM

    I find it laughable the paper publishes a news story, "Spencer Township Residents seek Transparecy." All the while never getting the Spencer Township Trustee's side or Lifespan's side of the story. Can anyone give a reason for this?

    Desperately Seeking Truth

  24. print email
    February 10, 2014 | 05:44 PM

    If you've never seen one side or the other's side of the story, you aren't looking hard enough.

  25. print email
    February 10, 2014 | 05:57 PM

    So if you read all the stories and comments tied to this subject. I have seen three times where it said Lifespan is not interested in returning to the community center. So what are they still fighting over? So is this retaliation?

  26. print email
    February 11, 2014 | 12:13 PM

    Anyone that wants to keep up with the lawsuit go to mycase.in.gov and click harrison county in drop down and civil cases and you can keep up with it.

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