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Newark Advocate

Etna Township hires litigator, 23-year resident Nita Hanson as administrator

By Maria DeVito, Newark Advocate,

2023-03-15

In Etna Township's latest heated meeting, trustees approved hiring a long-time resident as the township's administrator.

Trustees Rozland McKee and Jeff Johnson voted to hire Nita Hanson, a commercial litigation attorney with national law firm Dinsmore and Shohl's Columbus office, as the township's first full-time administrator since 2016. Her first day will be April 3. Trustee Mark Evans voted against the action.

During the meeting, Hanson shared she and her husband, Jon, have lived in Etna Township since 2000, and the couple owns commercial properties within the township as well.

She said she was a litigation paralegal for nearly 25 years before going to law school at night while continuing to work as a paralegal. She has been a lawyer since 2008 and practiced intellectual property law for five years. She has been with her current law firm since 2012. Hanson said she has not previously worked in township government.

"I've handled a myriad of different kinds of commercial disputes, which as you know, can be contentious and difficult from time to time," she said. "I have managed staff members, I've managed a case schedule that requires you know, ensuring that all deadlines are met."

Two candidates were interviewed in a special meeting Feb. 3 and two additional applicants were interviewed at the board's special Feb. 14 meeting. Before the vote, Evans repeatedly asked McKee and Johnson who was interviewed during the Feb. 3 meeting, which he could not attend because he had COVID-19. He said his fellow board members have refused to disclose the candidates interviewed in executive session.

While McKee and Johnson were asking Hanson when she could begin the position, Evans spoke over them to ask if Hanson had been interviewed Feb. 3. She said she did not know the specific date, but that it had been sometime in February.

Evans continued to question Hanson on when she submitted her resume and said it was concerning that he had not had the opportunity to speak with her prior to the March 7 meeting.

Near the end of the meeting, Evans said his questions were not about Hanson's character or abilities.

"It was about the process and it was flawed and it was inappropriate. And that needs to end," he said.

After the meeting, McKee said Hanson will bring her calm demeanor to the position, and that her negotiating experience is a critical attribute that's needed in Etna Township.

"As a negotiator, you have to work with both sides. You have to get along with people. You have to bring people together," McKee said.

McKee wasn't concerned about Hanson's lack of government experience and said a person like Hanson who has gone through law school and passed the bar exam can learn what's required for the position.

Johnson said he liked that Hanson's legal background made her stand out against the other quality candidates.

"She was very humble about herself and that's what we need here. We need people that are humble and just here to help the residents out," he said.

The township has not had an administrator since Rob Platte, now the Jersey Township administrator, left in 2016. Former trustee John Carlisle took over most of the responsibilities after Platte left. Last year Evans wanted to hire a full-time employee for the position, but Johnson and McKee opted to move forward with consultant Bill Vance. Vance served in the position until terminating his contract last month. At the time, he said it was because Etna was preparing to hire someone full time.

Hanson said in an interview that her experience as a litigator makes her "uniquely qualified" to work with the trustees, who have openly disagreed and bickered with each other over the last year.

"Much of what I do is dealing with people who are in emotional, financial disputes with each other," she said. "I really think I'm uniquely suited to deal with some of the difficult personalities and difficult situations that the township has found itself in."

McKee and Johnson also approved an agreement with utility aggregator Trebel Energy as well as natural gas rates at 0.5990 per ccf and electric rates at 0.0699 per kilowatt hour.

Evans, who vocally opposed the contracts at the previous meeting, voted against the actions. He even arranged for representatives from two other aggregator companies to come to the meeting and give brief presentations during public comments.

Evans said he filed complaints with the Ohio Court of Claims against the township and Trebel because he said the fee rate Trebel charges has not be provided to him. At the last meeting, a representative from the aggregator said the fees had been provided to Evans.

mdevito@gannett.com

740-607-2175

Twitter: @MariaDeVito13

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