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Trustee pleads not guilty to theft, forgery charges

A Mad River Twp. trustee pleaded not guilty to charges that included theft and forgery Wednesday, and his attorney said he will seek a speedy trial in Champaign County Common Pleas Court.

Brad K. Zerkle, who has served as a trustee since 2010, was released on his own recognizance after pleading not guilty to two counts of theft in office and one count of forgery. As a condition of his release, Zerkle will have no access to the township checkbook or credit cards.

His attorney, Jon Paul Rion, said Zerkle took a polygraph test that showed he is telling the truth about the case and said other evidence will show his client did nothing illegal.

“Our investigation will go on the offensive in the next 10 days to determine who is behind this witch hunt,” Rion said.

Zerkle’s indictment says one of the the theft charges involves gasoline owned by the township. A report from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office shows in 2011, deputies investigated an incident in which about $5,200 in property was removed from the grounds belonging to the township trustees.

The other theft charge was related to a reimbursement to the township for medical insurance. The forgery charge involved proof of insurance, according to the indictment.

Rion said those charges are the result of a dispute between Zerkle and the township over health benefits. Zerkle had received health insurance from a separate employer and there was a disagreement over reimbursements to the township for insurance benefits.

“In his attempt to save the township money, it seems to be a paradox that he’s accused of misusing that trust,” Rion said.

Matt Donahue, a special prosecutor from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, had also asked that the court prohibit Zerkle from having access to the township fuel pump as a condition of his release, but the court denied that request. Zerkle is still serving in his role as a trustee while the case continues.

Zerkle attended a regularly scheduled Mad River Twp. trustee meeting earlier this week, but the court case wasn’t discussed.

“He sees himself as a person who’s given much to the township and he wants to continue doing so,” Rion said of his client.

A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for 3 p.m. May 15.

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