A Dayton Daily News investigation uncovered five local government officials from the Miami Valley who violated ethics laws last year.

Ethics probe: Township trustee had improper interest in a public contract

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is from a Dayton Daily News investigation revealing public officials from across Ohio, including five from our region, were reprimanded by the Ohio Ethics Commission last year for ethics violations. Go here to read the full story

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A township trustee with Butler Twp. in Darke County accepted a reprimand from the Ohio Ethics Commission last year for having an interest in the township’s zoning inspection contract, according to a settlement agreement obtained by the Dayton Daily News. 

Curtis Yount has been township trustee since 2016 and had employed as the Darke County zoning inspector since 2005, according to the settlement agreement Yount signed in January 2018. He is currently Darke County’s planning and zoning director.

DDN INVESTIGATES: 5 local leaders violated ethics laws

The township had a contract since 2005 with the county that paid $300 a quarter for the county to conduct zoning inspections for the township, work that fell to Yount. The investigation found that Yount, as a township trustee, signed at least one check to the county for zoning inspections.

A mandamus action was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court against the township trustees about the deal in April 2017. The township then terminated the contract in June 2017 on the advice of the Darke County Prosecutor’s Office. The Supreme Court dismissed the case three months later.

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Township Fiscal Officer Melissa Sullenbarger said the township hasn’t paid anyone for zoning inspections since the contract was cancelled.

“If we need advice, we seek it. But we don’t have a zoning inspector at this point,” she said, explaining that the advice commonly comes from Yount. “Nobody gets paid for it out of any type of zoning fund.”

Yount stopped charging for the work after the ethics settlement because he handles most of the zoning in the county anyway, he told the Dayton Daily News, and Butler Twp. only has a couple zoning permits a year.

“Just to keep everything easy for everybody to get along with, and ease of access, I volunteered my services,” he said.

RELATED: From 2018 - More public officials dinged for ethics violations

RELATED: From 2017 - 14 public officials reprimanded by the Ohio Ethics Commission

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