Mecca official should step down now

Mecca trustees shudder to see the disaster that has come of the Mecca Township books, declared incomplete and inauditable by the Ohio auditor’s office.

Not only have trustees done their duty by foreseeing the problems with Fiscal Officer Deborah Drawl’s ability to manage the fiscal operations, but they also sounded the alarm by calling on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for help in removing Drawl early on.

Trustees also worked to find Drawl assistance in learning the job by asking the Trumbull County auditor for advice, and then turning to neighboring township fiscal officers for training. According to Trustee Fritz Birkhimer, Drawl also has attended training in Columbus. Birkhimer said whatever bills she submitted for travel expenses during that time, trustees paid.

Now, more than a year after trustees first called for Drawl’s removal, state officials have joined in and are attempting to have her removed through legal action. DeWine’s office contends they gave Drawl an opportunity to perform her duties, provided that she agreed to attend classes and provide documentation of submitting payments for state income tax withholdings.

The problems have not been rectified, and instead of stepping down, Drawl now is fighting back.

Legal arguments were held Thursday before Trumbull Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan. Drawl contends trustees should have paid the estimated cost of $8,500 to correct the books when the problems first came to light last year.

Trustees, predicting the errors would continue, argue that they didn’t want to fund the corrections until she was removed from office.

Now that the case is in court, both sides are footing the bill for attorneys and legal fees. While trustees expect the township’s insurance to cover their legal fees, costs still are anticipated to reconcile the books for 2016 and 2017, late fees will be generated from the failure to file state and federal income taxes, and there always is the possibility that the fiscal mess could trigger an increase in future insurance premiums.

As an elected official, Drawl must know her role as an elected official is to be a good steward of public money. Driving up legal fees for Mecca taxpayers is the wrong answer.

Rather than continue pursuing her defense, triggering continued expenses that the taxpayers will be forced to absorb, Drawl needs step down now.