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In-person and mail-in early voting for the Nov. 5 general election has begun. Rachel Garcia, county elections staffer, shows off a voting machine at the elections office, 1425 E. High St., Suite 104, Bryan. RON OSBURN/Staff

Verdict returned in Kendall case: Guilty on all counts

After deliberation Tuesday afternoon, a jury found Andrew S. Kendall, 39, of Bryan, guilty of three felony counts of possession of methamphetamine, one count of felony drug trafficking and one felony count of conveyance of a controlled substance into a correctional facility.

“I’m pleased that the jury found this person to be guilty of these crimes as charged. The police did an excellent job, the Bryan Police Department, the MAN Unit, the other agencies involved,” said Williams County Prosecutor Katie Zartman.

“This person is a big drug dealer in Williams County. We’ve seen him for 15 or 20 years going back to 1997. We’re happy to get him off the streets for as long as we can at any one time. (The jury) made the right decision here, in my opinion.”

The trial concerned two incidents from March, as well as the circumstances of his arrest in Williams Center in May.

A jury of his peers reasoned Kendall to have been in possession of approximately 44 grams of methamphetamine (second-degree felony possession) based on a search of a vehicle authorities said he had been driving, but did not own.

On March 25, Kendall was allegedly spotted on North Walnut Street by Bryan police officer Tracy Williamson, who knew him to be driving without a license. Upon realizing the police presence, Kendall reportedly exited the vehicle and fled authorities on foot and was not able to be located at the time, according to Williamson’s testimony on Monday in the Williams County Court of Common Pleas.

That same incident, alongside a previous encounter with Bryan police in the same vehicle earlier that month (fifth-degree felony possession) from which he was released after questioning, yielded an additional small quantity of meth, and recovery of numerous items potentially used in drug trafficking including numerous one-inch bags and scales, as well as text messages and photos downloaded from his recovered phone concerning drug sales, and folded stacks of $100 that were within his wallet upon his ultimate arrest in May in Williams Center (second-degree felony possession and second-degree felony trafficking).

Numerous personal use drug paraphernalia items were also recovered.

A third incident was also deliberated by jurors, in which Kendall was found to have a small, but “usable” amount of meth in a baggy on his person upon entry to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (third-degree felony conveyance). Jurors indicated Kendall knowingly brought the substance in after it was missed during a pat-down conducted by Williams County Sheriff’s deputies when he was arrested in May on a warrant.

A pre-sentence investigation is slated to be held at a yet undetermined date. According to Zartman, Kendall faces a maximum of 21 and a half years in prison.

Kendall is still expected to be tried in a separate trial on a felony charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Charges previously brought against Kendall in the Williams County Court of Common Pleas include trafficking of cocaine, felonious assault, burglary (pleaded down to criminal trespass), non-support of dependents, violation of a protection order, drug possession and theft of a motor vehicle. Previous charges against him in Bryan Municipal Court include menacing, intimidation, numerous assaults, harassment, criminal mischief, possession of drugs, domestic violence, OVI, fugitive from justice and resisting arrest, among others.

Fair royalty program expands age group, teaches life lessons

The Williams County 4-H Royalty program expanded to include younger 4-H’ers this year, offering more people the chance to participate and learn various skills.

This year, the program included two new positions, prince and princess, for 4-H’ers who are 12-15 years old.

“It’s mostly to get a little more involvement for the king and queen,” said Danyel Wortkoetter, who organizes the program with Katie Brown. “It’s just to kind of show the kids what it’s all about, to get a little more interest as they get older.”

They decided to add the prince and princess positions this year because interest has been down in the royalty contest.

This year there were no king contestants at all.

“We had decided to bring the prince and princess to acknowledge it more,” Wortkoetter said. “We ended up having seven girls run for princess and four boys run for prince. It got our numbers up a bit and gets it a little more known and out there.”

It also increased the crowd size of the final question and coronation, which happened on the first day of the fair.

With more people at the event, they get more recognition and more interest in king and queen going forward.

The first ever Williams County Fair princess and prince are Alexis Firm and Johnathan Dorsten, respectively. Both are from Bryan.

Firm, 16, said she participated to see how well she would do.

“I kind of just wanted to see how the royalty program, how it works,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”

Winning was a surprise for Firm. She missed out on two parades and she thought that would work against her.

“And it was kind of hard to know how I did during my interview process,” she said. “I just showed up and I think I did OK with that.”

Dorsten said he was interested in the program because in high school his mom was crowned as the fair queen.

“That was something when I was younger I thought would be cool to be part of,” he said.

Winning felt “very good,” he added.

“It was something I thought I had a good chance at it,” he said. “When they announced my name, it was a very awesome moment.”

The contest involves several activities, including an interview.

“The interview is a big part of their score,” Wortkoetter said. “They also participate in parades throughout the summer to represent the Williams County Fair.”

Once at the fair, they are asked one final question — which could include their favorite food stand at the fair or what they’ve learned in 4-H — before three judges. Their scores are then tallied and a winner is crowned, either with a tiara for the princess/queen or a cowboy hat for the prince/king.

Erika Grime was crowned the Williams County Fair queen this year.

“I feel I represent the county well; I put a lot of work into the fair,” the Stars of 4-H Club member said after her coronation. “I’m really involved; I’m on Junior Fair Board. I spend a lot of time here, so I felt that I really represented the county well.”

Winning the contest is only the first step, Wortkoetter said.

Once they have the tiara or hat, they have additional responsibilities, such as giving out ribbons and trophies during the show.

“They have some duties they do during the fair and then they also help out through the year with different things that go on at the fairgrounds,” she said, adding they help out when the various commodities groups host their annual dinners. “They also come and help at the Maple Syrup Festival and anything that is related to the fair and fairgrounds.”

Firm said one of her duties will now be to go around to different fairs to see what they do differently.

“I think it’s going to be really fun and interesting,” she said.

As the prince, Dorsten said his duties were fewer than for the queen, but at the fair he did help pass out ribbons at the different livestock shows.

“If you have royalty from another fair come in and visit, I give them a tour,” he said. “Just simple things like that, help around the fair, try to get a better name for the fair or increase people coming.”

With the fair over, much of the responsibilities are over, Dorsten said, but he plans to visit other fairs.

As the fair queen,Grime will also represent the county at the conference, competing for a chance to earn the title of Ohio State Fairs’ Queen this January.

The title isn’t out of their reach just because they are from a small town, either, as in 2017 Edon resident Crista Wortkoetter — Danyel Wortkoetter’s daughter — was crowned the Ohio State Fairs’ Queen.

One lesson learned in the program, Wortkoetter said, is being able to stand in front of a crowd and speak, an especially important skill for the queen at the state competition.

“The last couple of years, the state has had 79 (contestants),” she said. “They usually have a nice crowd.”

The interview process is also beneficial, as it helps them to be able to speak to adults and represent themselves, Wortkoetter said.

This helps them for job interviews or college and scholarship interviews.

“It also gives them responsibilities,” she said. “The princess this year told me she didn’t realize all the responsibilities for royalty. I told her most of the time they don’t until you are one.”

It also builds confidence.

Firm found the overall experience fun, saying the program was nice and that more kids her age should be involved. She intends to participate in the queen competition next year.

Dorsten echoed these comments, saying both the royalty competition and 4-H as a whole are “great opportunities.”

He plans to participate in the king competition, but only if there are other people.

“You can only be king once,” Dorsten said. “So, I might not run next year if there is no one against me. So, I don’t really want to be king my first year, I think it’s something I’d rather do later on.”

Montpelier teachers level charges against district; teachers allege bullying, fear retaliation

MONTPELIER — Montpelier teachers leveled charges of bullying, favoritism and bias, a lack of trust and fear of retaliation at school administration on Tuesday, publicly calling on the school board to hold the school administration accountable.

The charges were included in a prepared statement issued by the Montpelier Education Association (MEA) and read by Montpelier teacher and MEA Vice President Lester Orndorff at the monthly Montpelier School Board meeting Tuesday.

“Montpelier teachers are meeting today to protest the lack of progress being made by the district administration to improve the culture of the Montpelier School District,” according to the letter, which listed five specific points of teacher concern according to a MEA survey conducted earlier this year.

Teachers said the five specific concerns are: an atmosphere of bullying of MEA members; a fear of retaliation or reprisals for raising concerns; a belief there is favoritism or bias for certain individuals depending on friendships and family relationships; a feeling that teachers are not valued by administration; and a lack of trust that administration is willing or capable of making positive changes to improve the working atmosphere.

“Montpelier teachers have made it their goal and mission to positively change the school culture during the 2019-2020 school year; the MEA is hoping to work with the Montpelier BOE to ensure the administration is held accountable to accomplish this goal,” the letter said. About two dozen teachers, including MEA Co-President Stacie Yagelski, attended Tuesday’s board meeting, which concluded with a closed executive session.

After Orndorff read the letter, Superintendent Dr. Jamison Grime said he had met twice with teachers since the beginning of the year to address concerns, once on Aug. 19 and once on Monday, but didn’t hear specifics about their concerns at either meeting.

“I’m trying to listen ... I’m trying to keep open lines of communication ... I’m not sure what needs fixed,” Grime said.

Yagelski responded that Grime “yelled and screamed” during at least one individual meeting with her, which she said “makes it difficult to communicate,” a charge that Grime denied.

“I’ve made it clear to my staff, if you have issues, file a grievance ... there’s only been one filed and it (was resolved),” Grime said.

The MEA letter noted that as part of back-to-school activities in August, the administration invited noted motivational speaker Jim Mahony to speak about school culture, and that Mahony “stressed that school culture is everything, and that encouragement matters. The Montpelier Education Association wholeheartedly supports this position.”

First-year Assistant Principal Mike Bumb, though, questioned the teachers’ assertion that the culture within the school is negative, saying that from what he could see “the culture is fine.”

“We need to get things ironed out. It’s time to put this to rest, in my opinion,” Bumb said.

MEA member Barb Turner though, said in response to Bumb that he cannot see the negative culture because, “It’s all (done) behind closed doors.”

Yagelski said Grime did meet with teachers both on Aug. 19 and on Monday, but teacher concerns were not a topic of discussion at either meeting. “(Grime) did ask if there were other concerns, but that was not the time to bring up (the MEA’s issues),” Yagelski said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Orndorff and Yagelski said the issues date back to the beginning of the year, when the MEA vocalized its issues and asked the board and the administration to put some changes in motion. That ongoing lack of action precipitated the letter, they said.

“There’s been no productive action taken to address the union’s issues. That’s why we put this press release together. We’re trying to get the community aware of our issues. We’ve tried to have the board and the administration address these issues and we’ve seen no changes, so (the press release is how) we’re trying to get the community involved,” Orndorff said prior to the meeting.

Several teachers said after the meeting that no teacher will file a grievance because, as one MEA member said, teachers “are too scared” to put their name on it for fear of reprisal.

Orndorff and Yagelski said two board members on their own initiative have recently met with the MEA to discuss the issues.

“They listened. But there’s no action. But we have to open the lines of communication,” Yagelski said. She and Orndorff declined to identify the two board members in that meeting except to say the MEA felt they were more agreeable than the others to listen to their concerns.

Prior to the Tuesday meeting, board member Terry Buntain said she had heard two members had met with the MEA, but she was not one of them.

The MEA represents an overwhelming percentage of Montpelier teachers, and Orndorff said to date, the MEA is 100 percent united in its stand.

Grime, visibly upset, declined comment after Tuesday’s meeting, as did board President Darrell Higbie and board members Kim Friend and Nate Rose. Board member Jeremy Clinger was absent.