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Sheriff’s deputy steps in to quell near violence

Logan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Dodds has been on hand at the last few meetings of Belle Center Village Council.

His peace-keeping services were not needed, however, until Monday evening’s meeting.

In the final 10 minutes of the rescheduled meeting, Fiscal Officer Cindy Longbrake revisited the issue that she cites as the reason she walked off the job June 17 and threatened never to return.

And that triggered a reaction in Mayor Rhonda Fulmer that escalated to a loud exchange between council members and the mayor and the point of near violence by the conclusion of the meeting.

Ms. Longbrake said during the meeting, and in a letter circulated to council members, that the mayor has been threatening to call in an outside auditor to look into her handling of the books since she took over the position in April.

The fiscal officer said she has invited Logan County Auditor Michael E. Yoder to come in and investigate.

As the argument continued, voices rose as the mayor said she has not revisited the issue since Ms. Longbrake walked off the job, except on one occasion when questioned at the village office by Ms. Longbrake and Councilwoman Dione Campbell.

Council President Rick Bednarki, who was offended earlier in the meeting by a specific motion to excuse his absence at the regular June meeting, told the mayor he believes the problems that plague the municipal operation of the village stem from her inability to deal with other village employees and council members.

“If you don’t get along with people, I don’t know what to do,” Mr. Bednarki said. “You don’t get along with our fiscal officers and you don’t get along with council.”

Mayor Fulmer, however, said she has been excluded from important decisions affecting the village.

“She (Ms. Longbrake) walked off the job for two days, but after a conference call with council members, the former fiscal officer, the current fiscal officer and (Solicitor) Steve Fansler — a call I wasn’t invited to take part in — she learned I couldn’t fire her, only council could, and she came back,” the mayor said.

Councilman Dustin Plikerd then made a hasty motion to adjourn the meeting.

Mayor Fulmer continued to protest and, amid the clamor of loud voices, a second to the motion was made.

No roll call vote ensued, but council members began leaving the building nevertheless.

As Mr. Bednarki made his way to the door, a man identified by council members as Mayor Fulmer’s husband, Chris, approached the council president at the door.

Words were exchanged between the two and Col. Dodds stepped in to quell the situation before violence broke out.

During the actual meeting, which was moved up one day to accommodate Village Administrator Gerald Houchin’s schedule so he could present information on the condition of the village’s aging water tower, a report from the engineering firm Nelson Tank Engineering & Consulting was presented that recommended the village replace the 80-year-old water tower with a new $800,000 tower.

Read the complete story in Tuesday's Examiner.

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