The Grantwood Village Board of Trustees chairman used his power as an elected official to benefit a family member at taxpayers’ expense, two fellow trustees allege.
Village Treasurer Cathy Forand and Clerk Nancy Humes want Board Chairman Robert Prebil to resign from office for allegedly asking the village’s prosecuting attorney to drop two charges against his grandson in connection with an incident last summer at Grant’s Farm.
“We feel you have done a disservice to our residents and fellow trustees with a flagrant abuse of the law and your position,” Forand and Humes wrote in a March 1 letter to Prebil. “… Your unethical behavior is astounding and a detriment to the residents and those with whom you serve. As trustees, we cannot allow this to continue.”
Prebil, a trustee since 1997, was unavailable for comment before press time Monday.
Residents were invited to express their opinions on the issue at a special town-hall meeting Tuesday evening — after the Call went to press.
“The whole thing has just made me sick because I don’t understand how you cannot think this is an abuse of your power,” Forand told the Call Saturday. “It bothers me because I don’t like that. We want to try to keep it clean. You just can’t do stuff like that.”
On July 1, Prebil’s grandson, Adam Snyder of Concord, called a locksmith after locking his keys in his Ford Taurus in the main parking lot of Grant’s Farm, according to a county police report.
But after the locksmith, Donald Sparks of A-All Lock & Key Co., unlocked the car, Snyder told him he didn’t have enough money to pay the $65 bill. When Sparks tried to re-lock the car, Snyder, according to the incident report, “became angry, pushed on the vehicle door, catching Sparks’ left forearm in the door.”
Snyder told police he was upset because his car was blocking the parking lot entrance, and that it wasn’t fair for Sparks to re-lock the vehicle. He told officers there was no one he could call to give him money to pay Sparks, according to the report.
Police noticed a small laceration on Sparks’ left arm, but the locksmith refused treatment, according to the report.
Officers arrested Snyder, 19 at the time, and he was charged with third-degree assault and stealing under $500. He was released with a court summons for Sept. 8.
But on July 6, Prebil asked the village prosecuting attorney to drop the charges against his grandson, Forand and Humes wrote in their letter to the board chairman.
The attorney agreed to do so, and the citation never reached the village municipal court, they stated.
Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Duke billed the village 50 minutes of professional time on July 6 for a phone conference with Prebil “regarding a person given citation at Grant’s Farm” and correspondence with a court clerk “regarding same,” according to that month’s attorney invoice. Duke’s fee was listed on the document as $165 per hour.
In an e-mail to village court clerk Jennifer Wesloh the same day titled “Adam Snyder Defendant GWV,” Duke wrote, “Don’t (know) when it will come through Jennifer, but I intend to Nolle Pros (not pursue) this ticket.”
But Duke told the Call that “ultimately there was no decision not to prosecute” because the case never came within the jurisdiction of Grantwood Village court.
“The paperwork wasn’t handled by the police according to the way paperwork’s normally handled,” Duke said. “So really all I can say without breaching attorney-client privilege is those matters really aren’t closed. That’s basically about all I can say at this point.”
Grantwood Village contracts with the county for police services. Some cases are sent to the county while others remain with-in village jurisdiction, Duke said.
“That confusion caused confusion in this case,” he said. “And there will be more known about that coming up just because the trustees want to be sure that the public knows. That’s really all I can say. It’s messy.”
Forand said she discovered the interaction between Prebil and Duke while the board was interviewing law firms last month. Duke’s contract with the village expires this July, and trustees were reviewing past attorney invoices to determine what types of legal services were needed, Forand said.
“This came up and I’m like: ‘I wonder whatever happened with this case?’ And when I looked through the court docket, nothing ever appeared,” Forand said.
Forand and Humes gave Prebil until 5 p.m. March 4 to quietly resign from the board, Forand said. He refused, and the women decided to make their concerns public, she said. Copies of their letter to Prebil, along with an invitation to the town-hall meeting, were being distributed to village residents, Forand said Saturday.
Forand and Humes are up for election this April. Forand is seeking re-election. Humes, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Clerk Donald Dempsey, is vying for her first full two-year term on the board. However, both trustees said in separate interviews that the dispute with Prebil wasn’t tied to their respective election bids.
“We just thought: ‘We know it now and we have to do something,'” Forand said. “And it just happened to fall like it did.”
Humes told the Call, “I’m really not too worried about the election. If people want me in, they’re going to vote for me. If they don’t, they don’t. It’s not make-or-break.
“Right now it’s becoming a nuisance with this kind of stuff,” she added. “I don’t want to be part of something like this. The urgency is to get everything done that needs to be done and then move forward.”
The other two Grantwood Village trustees — Streets and Buildings Commissioner Michael Boone and Police Commissioner Glenn Biffignani — were unavailable for comment by press time Monday.