The “Egregious” behavior of a West Chester Trustee: Editing history to keep the public trust

It didn’t take a little bird to land on my window this time to inform me that there is something amiss in our community, again involving the West Chester Trustees. It appears a disrespectful indiscretion is deliberately being conducted regarding the transparency of the Trustee meetings as President Cathy Stoker after the August 28th 2012 meeting showed her intentions to append in the public record comments made during the June 26th, and July 10th meetings.

The controversy is over the construction of a crosswalk on Eagleridge road in Beckett Ridge to accommodate Trustee Lee Wong’s neighbor. The $5,000 project was initiated without a vote well before the trustees met to discuss the matter. The scenario is one that is typical in many small governments; where favors are given to those who are in the “know” and friends of people in high places receive the benefits. In this case Cathy Stoker and Lee Wong were caught colluding behind the scenes to make a simple crosswalk legally happen by building a consensus through the public meeting putting Trustee George Lang on the spot to approve the crosswalk before he had full knowledge of what was happening. It’s an old consensus building trick that disguises the intention, is legally worthy but is ethically challenged to say the least. Once Lang realized the depth of the maneuver, he put up a defense, but it was to no avail. Cathy and Lee are able to collude with each other since they are such like-minded progressive thinking politicians, and can out-vote Lang, which happens often. To review this case and watch the videos that is causing so much trouble, CLICK HERE.

Having disagreements are part of politics, and hashing out the truth through conflict can be very healthy. And part of learning that truth comes from the transparency of the public documents generated by the Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones who attends these trustee meetings so that the people of West Chester can reflect on what transpired in their community government. However, because of all the attention that the crosswalk issue had generated it appears that Trustee President Stoker has become concerned that some of her statements needed to be appended, which is a gross violation of public transparency. At the conclusion of the August 28th meeting Cathy instructed the Judi Boyko to work with Tim Jester and WCTV to append the June 26th Trustee meeting minutes responding to so-called erroneous statements made by Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones about the process surrounding the crosswalk incident.

The content of the “erroneous” statements are fairly minor and reflect disagreements with the politicians at play. They are of such a nature that Bruce Jones said to Cathy Stoker, “Furthermore at no time at the meeting o May 22 did you Cathy comment to the effect that you were out there watching traffic on Eagleridge. It’s not in the records.” Cathy’s response in the appended meeting notes were that she did indeed comment during that meeting to the effect she had watched traffic; as Mr. Jones himself admitted in his email to Mrs. Stoker on July 13 wherein he stated, “originally did not recall your comment about sitting in our car observing traffic at the intersection…I again reviewed the videotape and at the 43:15 minutes into the 5/22 video you made that comment.” The comments are those kinds of disagreements, all of which can be seen at the previous article I wrote on this matter.

The trouble is when a trustee like Cathy has a clear vote always in their favor with Lee Wong and a government employee who makes $140k per year like Judi Boyko to eat out of the hand of whoever sits in the presidents chair at a trustee meeting, seeks to append bickering records from public view because they know that people may catch the manipulation that is going on and start adding two and two together, deep trouble is not far behind. Clearly, the intentions of Cathy Stoker and Lee Wong from the previous article were to use public money to build a crosswalk in Beckett Ridge where Wong’s wife is a member of the homeowners association and there appears to be some bragging that has went on about how Lee being a trustee in West Chester could get a crosswalk put in for his friends and neighbors. The issue is not the merit of the $5,000 crosswalk which may or may not be needed; it’s the process that put it in play to begin with. Lee Wong, Cathy Stoker and Judi Boyko already had the whole project in motion before the May 22nd meeting was put to a vote, and that’s not how things work. Then when Cathy got caught in the manipulative scheme, she sought to manipulate the public records to cover her tracks, which is why she instructed Judi to work with Jester and WCTV to “append” the trustee notes.

When politicians get caught doing these kinds of things, it does make me very angry. When I had similar problems with the Lakota School System, after three votes by the community to reject a tax increase, the school system instead of forcing a 5% reduction in salaries and benefits among their unionized work force to balance their budget instead raised sports fees, cut busing, electives, and sought to undercut the work I was doing behind the scenes with No Lakota Levy to help pay the sports fees for children who most needed it. Their response to me was to stand outside Kroger by Lakota East and smear my name and the good work I was trying to do, which led to a very public spat that Cathy Stoker felt she was mandated to speak on. In The Cincinnati Enquirer Cathy Stoker said about me, “the language used by Mr. Hoffman is not only egregiously offensive, but reflects badly on the No Lakota group that Mr. Hoffman supports.” Clearly, Stoker is the kind of politician that seeks to hide her actions behind appended notes and polite backstabbing. I prefer to fight out in the parking lot and when these manipulative types find themselves painted into a corner, the try to sanitize history, and when someone gets angry about it, they call them “egregiously offensive.” What they really want is “shut up and take it!”

What is “egregiously offensive” to me are trustees who appear to be keepers of the public’s trust, as Cathy illustrated herself at my expense in The Cincinnati Enquirer telling me that I should hold my temper when I see the nasty political games that I’ve witnessed, only to allow the people who run the show like her to “append” documents, twist the facts, and attempt to cover up scandalous behavior with public consensus before everything hits the fan. These types of people hate transparency, they love it when nobody watches what they are doing, because it’s all too easy to cut deals and use public tax dollars like a child uses Lego building blocks to construct anything their imaginations can conger up. Nobody really cares about the procedures, the safe keeping of the public treasury because when they run out of money they just look for a tax increase or a new tax all together. It’s the looters life for those kinds of politicians.

For me, it’s not the comments between politicians resulting in the discussions from the various trustee meetings that are the problems. I expect conflict in a trustee meeting. I expect George Lang and Cathy Stoker to fight it out. I expect Lee Wong to call George Lang a rich suppressor who lives in big mansion while he lives in the lowly neighborhood of Beckett Ridge. (Yes, Lee actually said something to that effect) I expect those public representatives to have disagreements. To me, it is perfectly fine for Bruce Jones to call Cathy a liar, and to force Stoker to defend herself. That’s politics. It helps put the truth on the table. What I don’t like is a person who seeks to eliminate the opposition so that there is nobody to call them on their manipulative tendencies and collude with others for the benefit of the few. And manipulating public notes or altering them with chaos to cover tracks is disingenuous to the keeping of public records. It defeats the purpose.

To me calling people publicly who will do anything for money a “prostitute” as I’ve done on more than one occasion is far less “egregious” than telling a township employee to meet with the people at WCTV so that the record can be altered to cover up the betrayal of public trust. Yet that is how Cathy managed to get a crosswalk built for her friend Lee Wong without a proper vote or discussion beforehand. She conducted her meeting in an underhanded way to leave openings later for editorial manipulation in the chess game of politics. If she got caught, she’d say she really meant this, or really meant that, and if she got caught flat-footed, then she’d just have the records altered to reflect her version of reality. Yes, that is far more egregious than calling people a bad name, or even disagreeing with their politics. The open manipulations of the public trust, including the media who turn a blind eye toward these occurrences are all just a little guilty of “egregious” behavior that is in direct violation of the public trust. And those violations are never more evident than in a trustee president who wishes to append public comments, because if she weren’t trying to cover something up, she wouldn’t care to begin with.

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Rich Hoffman
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