GREENVILLE — The Darke County Agricultural Society’s board of directors met on Wednesday for a meeting that lasted for over three and a half hours.
Immediately after calling the meeting to order and going through roll call, fair board director Jim Zumbrink made a motion to approve the resignation of Thomas Shaw as a director. The motion was approved unanimously. Shaw, according to a recent interview with the Daily Advocate, had originally planned to resign this winter as he is moving to Fort Recovery. He said he and his wife had purchased a home in Mercer County but would not be able to move in until January.
During the recognition of guest portion of the agenda, Kathleen Ditmer, 4-H advisor, asked for the reason Shaw resigned. “Over the past year, I have questioned the integrity and honesty of quite a few of the board members. Nobody is asking the question that needs to be answered right now. Why did Tommy Shaw resign?” Martin read the resignation letter. After sharing the resignation was effective immediately and praising his time on the board, Shaw wrote, “Although the board allowed me to finish this year until I legally became a resident of Mercer County, I will not tolerate the constant harassment and stalking of my family and I have received.”
Ditmer said she was the person in the letter being identified as a “stalker.” She said, “I did not stalk, but I will tell you in the spring of this year, I heard rumblings that Tommy was living in Mercer County. You cannot sit on a Darke County board and live in Mercer County.” She went onto explain that she drove to Mercer County to see where his vehicles were. A couple of his neighbors questioned Ditmer, but they also pointed her to an apartment building. The neighbor followed her to the apartment and told her that “Tommy and Hannah were scared.” She attempted to call Shaw but did not receive an answer.
“I think we all sitting here in this room ought to have a little bit of honesty and what I’m really disgusted about is that I have 10 board members sitting in this room that did absolutely nothing,” she said. “You all knew where he was living. There could be no mistake. And if you questioned it, why didn’t you do something?” She claimed that Shaw should not have been on the board and the board seat should have been open during the last election.
Marla Werner and other members of the board claimed they were told Shaw did not live in Mercer County. Board President Doug Martin explained every member sat in an executive session and Shaw explained where his mail was going and where his voting registration was and asked if any member of the board had an issue. Martin said, “If anybody had a problem with that he would step down.” Ditmer believes Shaw committed a fraud on this board and community. Zumbrink said he asked the question where Shaw laid his head at night, and it was on his conscience. Werner said she suspected it but couldn’t prove it. “I guess I’m naïve. You take people at their word,” said Zumbrink.
A tense exchange took place between Ditmer and board member Jason Manning after Ditmer explained she called several of the board members on this issue. “Mr. Manning, I don’t know you and I did not call you.” He responded, “But you’re sitting there calling me a liar and cheat.” Ditmer interrupted, “I’m not calling you a liar.” Manning continued, “You sure are. You said all of us.” She conceded, “Yeah, I guess you all are.”
Less than five minutes into the meeting, former board member Jerry Marker addressed the board and asked for the opportunity to fill the vacant seat. Marker participated in the last election of officers but missed out on a seat by four votes. The board has selected the person with the next highest vote total in the past to fill a vacant seat and most recently used this method with the appointment of Heidi May to fill the seat left vacant by Larry Baker.
Marker said, “I’m here to see about getting appointed to your empty seat since the board has already set a precedent on how to do that. (I was) just wanting to know if you were still thinking about doing it the way you did it six months ago when that empty seat became available?”
Zumbrink said, “To be quite frank, with the credibility of the board I’ll move that we seat Jerry Marker.” The motion was seconded by Dudley Lipps. With nine members present, the vote failed 5-4. Voting against the motion were Manning, May, Dave Singer, Matt Sullivan and Martin. Voting in favor were Zumbrink, Lipps, Werner and Greg Pearson.
Following the vote, Marker asked, “What’s changed in six months? Why did the board set a precedent before when you only had 90 days to fill that seat?” May took office approximately three months prior to the seat coming up for election. Martin responded, “If you ask me, my opinion is that Heidi was runner up five times in a row and lost by a simple flip of a coin.” He continued, “Everybody else can speak for themselves.” Marker asked May the same question and she gave a similar answer to Martin’s answer.
The board has the option of filling the seat or leaving the seat vacant until the next election.
The senior fair board was asked to support the junior fair board’s decision to withhold premium money from select junior fair exhibitors and suspend adults/committee members involved with the decision to allow the exhibitors to be added to the show list after the deadline from the committee for one year. These exhibitors did not go before the junior fair board or the senior fair board for a final decision.
Werner believes it is hard for the senior fair board to enforce something if they don’t have the entire list of late entries that were allowed to show. They only have a select list of entries. Members of the junior fair board explained they only ruled on the select group of entries that were brought before them. “I want to make sure we have a complete list,” said Werner.
Beth Martin, junior fair director, said the head advisors can get into the system to determine if their members are signed up. She shared that many of the advisors begin looking two weeks before the deadline.
Lipps and Manning were concerned about conflicting rules in the rule book. Both agreed that all of the rules need to be examined. Lipps said it would be hard to make a decision on this issue because of the way the rules are written. It was suggested that senior fair board members sit down with junior fair board members to begin the process of going through the rules.
Manning made a motion to support the junior fair board’s decision, but the motion died for lack of a second.
In other business, Werner shared updates on the focus committee’s work to possibly build a dog barn and/or community center. The committee is discussing everything without opinion and is making calls to get solid information. They have met twice and plan to continue to meet.
A new dog barn was proposed in 2015 and a new hog/goat/sheep multi-purpose barn was proposed after the original swine barn burned down. A fundraising campaign was also held for all of the proposed buildings. The community center aspect was added when the board applied for a grant through the state’s Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA).
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the board went into executive session for personnel. When they emerged, the board released a statement saying they would be having a “cooling off period” and would hold a special meeting to elect officers and re-consider appointing Marker to the board. According to the ODA’s Red Book, the rules that govern Agricultural Societies, the board has until Nov. 30 to elect its slate of officers for the new year.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]