- Ed Richter Staff Writer
Local officials refused to talk Friday about the status — or even the current whereabouts — of the Confederate monument that was removed by Franklin city workers.
The plaque dedicated to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and placed on a stone at Dixie Highway and Hamilton Middletown Road in Franklin was removed under cover of night.
Franklin and Franklin Twp. officials — who at first were uncertain whose jurisdiction it was in — both had initially said the monument would remain. The city reversed course and said it would come out because it was in the right of way. When a Dayton group said it planned a weekend protest and after other Confederate monuments around the U.S. were damaged, Franklin city leaders decided to remove it quickly.
Franklin Twp. officials said they don’t know where the 90-year-old memorial is, and city officials said they delivered to the township early Thursday.
Franklin Mayor Denny Centers said in a text that he did not know where the monument is and said he understood that the township has it.
Township Trustee Ron Ruppert declined to comment on the matter.
No one answered the phone at the Franklin Twp. offices, and Township Administrator Traci Stivers did not answer her cell phone. In Franklin, Acting City Manager Jonathan Westendorf, who is also the city’s fire/EMS chief, said he had no additional information.
This news outlet requested detailed information on the transfer to the township from the city on Thursday but has not received it as of Friday afternoon.
The story took a strange turn Thursday. Trustees Beth Callahan and Brian Morris confirmed that Stivers, who works for the township trustees, sent out a text to the trustees that afternoon that said Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims “has personally asked that you STOP talking to anyone about this. No comment from here on out! He said if you have questions just call him.”
Messages for comment were left with Sims on Thursday and Friday but were not returned.
Morris, who said he did not know where the monument is, told this news outlet Thursday evening that he had called Sims, who asked for the trustees to be responsible with their communications with the media. Morris said the sheriff wants to see a peaceful transition whenever and wherever they decide to move the monument.
Morris, who is a key organizer for the Carlisle Railroad Days festival this weekend, said the trustees would discuss the matter at their meeting next week, which is scheduled for Wednesday. However, Morris told this news outlet that he will be on a business trip and is requesting to move the meeting to Thursday. No announcement has been made about changing the meeting day.
Callahan, the president of the board of Franklin Twp. trustees, said Stivers told her that she was “not allowed to tell her” nor would she say where or if the monument was delivered to the township. When Callahan asked Stivers who gave her that authority to keep that information from her, an elected official, Stivers would not answer.
On the website of Showing Up for Racial Justice, its Dayton chapter had announced a demonstration in answer to a call for action from the Black Lives Movement. However, on Friday, SURJ announced it would move the demonstration to Centerville and keep an eye on where Franklin Twp. moved the monument.
City officials said one local group of residents wanted to counter protest a demonstration by the Dayton group. However, Westendorf said a seven-day notice must be given before an assembly permit is issued by the city.
Vice Mayor Carl Bray said a group of local residents went to the Franklin City Building on Thursday seeking an assembly permit for Saturday but left after being informed of the seven-day notice requirement.
Franklin City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday.