NILES - A war of words continued at Monday night's meeting of the Niles Township Board, with Supervisor Jim Kidwell and Treasurer James Ringler blaming each other for issues that have disrupted the township the last few months.
Kidwell, who was targeted recently by an anonymous letter writer who raised questions about a building erected some 10 years ago at the rear of his property, got the ball rolling when he read aloud a follow-up anonymous letter allegedly penned by the same person who wrote the first letter.
In the follow-up, the writer apologized for raising the issue of the building and indicated he, or she, was coerced into writing the letter based on comments he heard during a discussion at a local supermarket. The writer was critical of Ringler, in particular, stating he, or she, was appalled by complaints filed against him and another township official by Stefanie Woodrick, the townships zoning administrator. The complaints alleged verbal abuse.
It was alleged earlier this year that Ringler, who makes his living as a real-estate broker, had intimidated Woodrick over a lot-split issue. He was cleared, however, by an outside law firm. Kidwell, too, was found by township building official Jeff Dunlap and assessor Carol Hill to have done nothing illegal as far as the building on his property.
Monday's discussion soon grew heated, with Ringler labeling the anonymous letters "childish" and forms of "character assassination" and "political assassination." He then put the ball in Kidwell's court, telling him he needed to show some leadership and put a stop to the controversy.
But Kidwell fired back, asking Ringler if it was true he had called Dunlap and Hill into his office to question them about Kidwell's building. Ringler agreed he had, arguing that Dunlap told him Kidwell had failed to obtain a permit for the building.
Later, Herschel Hoese, who earlier this year mounted an unsuccessful recall effort against Kidwell, called for an independent investigation of the building issue. Also, Tony Millin, a representative of the township group Honest Citizens for Honest Government, raised questions about a $26,000 loan he said Ringler had obtained years ago from a west-side property owner to drill test wells.
Kidwell, who has denied ties to Honest Citizens for Honest Government, called the loan a misappropriation of funds but Ringler defended it, saying he was pleased the property owner agreed to reimburse the township for the cost.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: