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Ex-trustee cleared of theft, forgery

Champaign official was voted out of office in November.

Jurors found a former Mad River Township trustee not guilty Wednesday after a trial on theft and forgery charges while in office, and he now is looking into filing a civil case about the allegations.

Brad Zerkle, 45, of 590 Neal Road, was indicted in April. Since then he lost his seat as a township trustee in November and lost his job.

“He really tried to turn the system upside down to make sure the township citizens were properly being represented, and he paid for that, but today he was vindicated,” Zerkle’s attorney, Jon Paul Rion, said.

When Zerkle took office in 2009, he saw the township was paying $50,000 on insurance for just a handful of people, according to Rion.

The total salaries of the three trustees was $24,000, and township minutes show in his first year he tried to get rid of those insurance payments to township employees.

“He threatened the stability of some of these individuals’s pay structure. I think that attitude of trying to change the way business was done created some enemies,” Zerkle said.

Zerkle faced two theft charges for allegedly stealing gas and overstating the amount the township needed to reimburse him for his insurance.

“He was making $83,000 a year; he wasn’t trying to get rich off the township,” Rion said.

Visiting Judge David Faulkner dismissed the charge relating to the gas on Wednesday before jurors began deliberation.

The state said Zerkle wrongfully took $852.02 in over payments for insurance from Mad River Township in 2010.

“He claimed to be simply on a more expensive health insurance plan when in fact he was — and he knew he was — on a less expensive plan,” Ohio Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Thomas Anger said.

The prosecution showed a series of emails between Zerkle and his employer’s benefits coordinator about what insurance plan he was on.

They said he knowingly “deceived” the township to get a higher monthly reimbursement for his insurance.

Zerkle’s wife Darlene Zerkle, self-proclaimed family bookkeeper, took the stand Wednesday and said the family had to change plans so that a surgery she needed would be covered.

Concerning the forgery charge, the prosecution said Zerkle forged a letter to the township proving he had insurance.

The defense and prosecution had the letter analyzed, and both experts could not conclude that it was not the signature of Zerkle’s benefits coordinator from Castelline.

Zerkle stated today his political career is not over and he plans to run for election in the future.

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