Child endangerment, charter amendments and transparency all in one article?
Although I intend to write about all the Charter Amendments in different articles, this article gives me the opportunity to tell you I recommend voting No on Issues 4, 10, and 11; Yes on Issues 5, 6, 8, 9; and I am interested to see how Issue 7 turns out. In this article, I specifically talk about Issue 4 which I will call the Bullying Amendment.
Issue 4, the Bullying Amendment, is a proposed change that would allow council to throw out a member of council they do not like, if six members of council are willing to say the member they do not like violated an express provision of the City Charter. You can listen to the relevant part of the discussion on this Charter Amendment. It is on the video from the Jan 31, 2017 Special City Council Meeting and starts 26 minutes into the video. The telling piece of information comes at 38:40 when the City Attorney tells us, effectively there are no express provisions of the City Charter that could be used for this purpose except those found in Section 4:06. Section 4:06 is titled “Prohibitions” and currently lists those violations which a member of council can be removed from office. In fact, the City Attorney specifically addresses the one item council members have been claiming is the item that prompted them to put in this change and he said it would not qualify.
If there are no provisions in the Charter other than the one section specifically designed as prohibitions that council could use, why would they insist on putting this language into the Charter other than in hopes they could use it to bully an independent minded council member? The main point about the two following examples is that we can reduce the amount of bullying done by council if we can keep them from going into executive session. The second reason for these examples is to show that bullying is a prime tactic used by members of council and the City Manager. According to the City attorney there is no way Issue 4 could be used the way supporters tell you it could be used. Let’s not give council another way to bully others. Vote No on Issue 4.
The first executive session discussed was one where I was accused of Child Endangerment and in the second council accused me of breaking the law. Note: I was then and am now, quite comfortable discussing my behavior in open public meetings. Council needed to hide their actions.
On Oct 2, 2014, there was a town hall to talk about the 2025 plan as part of the campaign to get the tax levy passed. It was held at the Huber Heights Senior Center. The picture below gives a general depiction of the senior center and I use the letters to indicate where people were located.
City Manager Rob Schommer was speaking. He was located at about position A when he said something that I thought was inaccurate. I moved from where I was sitting (C) to position (D) and started to make my point. Mr. Schommer moved to position (B). I got aggravated and went back to my seat and started to gather up my belongings and my five year old’s coloring books. She was sitting in (H).
Father Simone moved over from (E) to (G) and tried to convince me not to leave. I reacted by saying, “I’m not going to stay around here and listen to this bullshit” and after gathering up our stuff, my daughter and I left. Father Simone was still engaged with trying to keep me from leaving until we reached the door.
I had friends afterward that were sitting in positions (F) that told me, after they read the paper, they didn’t even realize I was upset and definitely were unaware that I swore in the presence of the priest. In fact, no attendee other than the people that signed the complaint could be located by me or the media that was even aware that I had caused this incredible disturbance.
During the October 9th Council meeting, vice-Mayor Tracey Dudley read a complaint signed by ten staff members then motioned to go into executive session to discuss the complaint.
While in executive session some of the complainants and some council members talked like they were going to use the incident described above to make allegations of child abuse.
You can read the complaint and two emails that were prompted by the allegations by looking at one of my previous posts: Good is a matter of perspective
Who knows how far these plotters would have taken these allegations? When I talk about transparency I am looking for people that do not rush into executive sessions so that letters like the two found in that previous post need to be written.
Allegations of Law Violation
If you pay attention to other recent articles posted on this site you will see we had another incident where council inappropriately went into executive session. This time it was to try and make false allegations that I broke the law. In that incident, I pointed out the Ohio Sunshine laws said that I had a right have these allegations made in an open meeting. They ignored the law and talked about this in executive session anyway. Eventually, they sent a complaint to the Ohio Ethics Board which rejected the complaint due to there being no evidence of any violation of the Ethics Laws or related statutes.
There were two reasons I demanded the allegations be made in public. One was because an examination of the facts show I did not break the law. These allegations were made in private and behind closed doors first in hopes that I could be pressured into compliance and secondly so that rumors and innuendo about bad judgment could be spread around. That innuendo would not be effective if actual details were available to the public.
The details concerning the energy aggregation issue are important and, I wanted them discussed in public because we as a city need a council that expects staff to provide real information when we are asked to make decisions. Despite the attempts to say they were illegal, my attempts to get real information for the energy aggregation issue provides the model that should be followed in the future when council has an important issue to decide.
I got stuck here for a long time. I tried multiple times to weave the points I want to make into a well-constructed article. Finally, I just wrote. Sorry.
-- Transition needed to make the case for good read ahead material:
I strongly believe that giving council and the public a chance to prepare for discussion in advance helps achieve better decisions. It also provides a format for good references to look back at if that becomes necessary.
One reason I say it is important to get read aheads to the public is because it gives even more opportunities for people with expertise to quality check the information council is using to make decisions on our behalf. Even the questions from those that may not be experts can prompt a council member’s curiosity in a positive way.
There are plenty of example where a dedication by staff to provide good read ahead materials would prove a benefit to council and the public.
The finance software passed on 28 Nov 2016, it was a $60,000 expenditure where staff did not even look into other options.
Last Council meeting the contract for the Fireworks display was handed to council just before the vote.
The next point to make is that private meetings and discussions hurt the process and they typically cause bad feelings and the public often is stuck without information and left wondering what happened.
You can see an example of this from the last council meeting when Council Member Smith started talking about the banner funding she thought would be in the supplemental appropriation legislation that meeting. There obviously were out of public discussions between council members and the City Manager. It was only through a public discussion that members of the community were able to get insight into how city business is conducted.
Even though the Town Hall with Father Simone got all the attention it was really the earlier Ward 6 town hall that started the issue. Prior to the Ward 6 town hall I had a discussion in Mr. Schommer’s office about the tax levy. I talked about my desire to build the fire station based on that fact that we had already collected the money to build it through the 2005 tax levy. My position was that we should not bind ourselves with the fallacy that we could go to 2025 without an increase in fire or police levels. Just a couple days later, during the Ward 6 town hall Mr. Schommer structured his talk to convince the audience it was irresponsible for anyone to discuss building the fire station without the levy. I learned early in my term not to confide in private with the city manager.
On one hand, it is a shame that the Mayor of a city does not believe his city manager is trustworthy. On the other hand, our city government can work efficiently by doing everything in public.
Often, I get reports on theories of corruption. Those that hang out at the Heights Café know the proprietor there would have you believe the Netflix series, “House of Cards” was based on the politics of Huber Heights. Before being elect, I heard him and others talk negatively about all those in high positions for more than two years. He had a particular issue with Mr. Campbell.
In 2013, I had to decide if I was going to run for Mayor or Council at large. My first choice was Mayor because it is the most influential position on Council and because of my desire to serve in Congress. However, I went to Jeff and others and told them if they had evidence that Mr. Campbell was crooked I would run for Council at Large. Of course, they produced nothing.
Jeff promotes the creation of a City Center. As Mayor and as a resident, I do not buy into the concept that we need a “City Center” located at the Huber Center. If there is a business owner that spends their time and money trying to make the concept work, it would be interesting to see how it turns out. I definitely would not waste money making the city the primary investor.
When I was looking for a candidate to appoint to Ward 5, Jeff told me I was going to appoint a specific person or else. I did not and that combined with my outlook on the City Center concept appears to have elevated me to the same status as Mr. Campbell in his view.
Photo provided by Huber Jeff
I wrote the last four paragraphs just to state things that I am sure everyone knows. There are a lot of people that will make up rumors and tell stories. So we have to take those stories with a grain of salt, especially if people are not willing to produce substantiating evidence or even willing to go on record with the allegations.
On the other hand, when just a few short months ago a well-respected businessman in the community, that is not tied to any of the known rumor mills, talks about how prior to my being elected if you wanted anything from the city you had to be political. Conversations like that cannot be totally disregarded.
Last year I ran into a member of the Bethel Schools Board of Elections that chose not to act on the City’s request to approve a 70/30 TIF. In that conversation, I asked about the school’s effort to have the State approve some road work. I knew when I asked that our assistant city manager had volunteered our engineering staff to help liaison that discussion. Though he would not say it, board member gave the strong impression he thought the city did not come through with assistance because of my efforts to make sure the Parktown TIF was created as a non-school TIF.
There are a lot of dilemmas that come when you have conversations like this. Is that what he really implied? I would welcome to see that the Bethel School Superintendent followed up with the city and there was evidence the city put in a good effort to assist. Would investigating or asking for email trails now, or even right after the conversation done anything useful? I chose not to investigate. If Bethel had come to me with this thought while the issue was still up in the air I would have intervened and likely been successful in making sure our engineering staff was not being withheld out of spite. But investigating these concerns after the construction was done would serve no purpose especially since the assertions were not specifically stated.
This brings me back full circle to Energy Aggregation. If you recall, when council was provided the bid responses staff failed to include 8 pages of one firm’s response. Staffed failed to provide any real data to justify their selection. Calculations they provided later had errors that incorrectly made it seem their selected firm performed better than the firm with the missing pages. When their selected firm implied that the competitor’s community has termination fees, staff passed that along to council as if it were true, even though it was not.
A cynic might start looking for nefarious reasons why it appears like the chips were stacked for one firm. For too long the cynics have defined the reputation of this city. I was willing to fight to make sure the Energy aggregation discussion and decision was fair to all the firms. I would have again stood up for the School if given the opportunity. But one person cannot change the reputation of the city. All the leaders on council and in the City Manager positions must insist the work gets done so that we get complete accurate and public reports that show impartial decision are made.
I close with one last example of a private conversation with the city manager. I was at city hall for a public meeting and it happened we both were alone in the conference room and energy aggregation came up. In an attempt to discredit the firm whose pages were lost, the City Manager relayed a statement made by the firm’s representative. He said, that he had a conversation with the representative during the interview process and the representative told him the companies he normally brings into a community typically become involved and have a history of promoting community events. The city manager closed by saying, we definitely wouldn’t want that kind of business here. There is no other way to take the city manager’s statement other than as an assertion that the representative’s statement was meant as an offer to bribe. The question is why was the assertion made? What was the desired effect?
I can only guess at the desired effect. The actual effect was for me to wonder if I should give more credence to of all those that come with unfounded claims they are not willing to make publicly or back up with evidence. Now that I’ve thought about trusting and acting on unsupported claims I again conclude it is just not part of my personality. I do know that others have trouble following this lead. I also know that we could fight the cynics, if there were fewer attempts at behind the scenes attempts to influence members of council. We would have fewer accusations of corrupt government, if council asked for and received, organized and defendable read ahead materials, not only for energy aggregation but for all issues before council.
Click on the link if you interested in Mayor? How about Council at Large? Issue 7?
A no vote on Issue 11 is a vote for transparency.