By Amanda Amsel
Things heated up after a recent Franklin Township trustees meeting.
At an August meeting, trustees Don Cook and Tim Guyton got into a physical altercation.
According to surveillance video from the meeting, both trustees were exchanging words with each other and then Guyton walked around the table and grabbed Cook by the back of the neck. Cook, who is 78 years old, then pushed Guyton, who is 58 years old, away as trustee John Fleshman separated them.
According to Cook, the argument started after the trustees began talking about trash issues the township has been having with Local Waste Services.
Cook filed a police report on Sept. 2, claiming the incident was an assault. No charges have been filed by the city of Columbus Prosecutor’s Office.
“The Franklin Township Police Department has not pursued charges against Mr. Guyton. We are leaving that up to Mr. Cook to move forward with pressing charges,” said Franklin Township
Police Chief Allan Wheeler. “I did not witness the incident and with any misdemeanor charge we leave it to the victim to press charges, no matter who the incident is dealing with.”
If Cook chose to move forward with charges, Guyton would be charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.
“Anyone can accuse someone of something, but the real question is does squeezing the back of someone’s neck count as an assault,” Wheeler said. “Without a doubt there was a physical altercation, but was it enough to file charges against Mr. Guyton? That will be up to the prosecutor to decide.”
According to the police report, Cook said Guyton called him a “clown” before coming around the table and assaulting him. According to the same report, Guyton stated that Cook called him several foul names before the altercation took place.
“The police did not make a decision if there was probable cause, so nothing will happen unless the victim comes down here and moves forward with pressing charges,” said Sheena Rosenberg, assistant city prosecutor for the city of Columbus. “If charges are filed, Mr. Guyton still does not have to resign, that decision would be up to the people that elected him.”
In an interview with Cook, he stated he was considering pressing charges, but had not made a final decision. He also stated he felt Guyton should resign from office.
“Any elected official who loses their temper like that should step down from office,” Cook said. “I don’t see how we can work together. This incident will make it even harder.”
In an emailed statement from Guyton, he said he has no plans to step down from office, but does regret the incident.
“I reacted to Mr. Cook calling me a derogatory name. I was wrong to leave my chair,” Guyton said. “I am not resigning. To Mr. Cook’s comments, trustees should not work against each other, but should instead be working in behalf of the residents of the township. Two of the board members agenda is totally the opposite of mine on that front.”
Tim Guyton has served as a Franklin Township trustee for 23 years and Don Cook has served as a Franklin Township trustee for nine years.