(Full disclosure- as I’ve been following this story for weeks, and wanting to write about it, I’ve not had the time it deserves. I’ve not been able to do my own public records requests and have had to trust many others who’ve been doing the digging. It’s not to my normal level of investigation. I’ve also helped the group by printing yard signs for them, saving them money from the last printer they worked with. I donated some time to redesigning them.)
The first thing to go in the lockdown is access to public records requests and public meetings rules. Requests put in pre-coronavirus are just being filled. Public meetings aren’t all that public- at least when it comes to citizens asking questions. And, in Facebook land, a group has started called “Support Sgt. James Myers” but, in reality, it’s become much more than the firing of one officer, it’s turned into a case study of why professional journalism is so critical to a functioning democracy.
The group now has 810 members, including former council members, employees, and even a few citizen activists. Originally, the issue was about a 5-day suspension and then the forced retirement of Sgt. Myers, a long time, decorated member of the Centerville Police Department who was dismissed March 16, 2020 under the direction of the relatively new City Manager, Wayne Davis.
Davis was hired in July of 2017 to replace long time Manager Greg Horn who had been with the city for 25 years. Davis started at $169,000 a year, but was given an 8.5% pay bump in Oct of 2019 to $183,414. Horn worked 25 years for the city, and never made that much. Usually, a big raise is a sign of competence and confidence in leadership with tangible achievements in a short period of time. However, it seems, that Mr. Davis’s strong suit is alienating long term employees and having them leave after signing “resignation agreements” with a non-disclosure clause. I’ve seen several of these, and would wonder why this has become standard operating procedure under Davis. For comparison, the city bestowed a measly 2.5% raise to the rank and file.
Davis, came to Centerville after a stint working his way up in the city of Montgomery, where he started in 2000 as finance director, moving up to assistant city manager in 2006 to acting city manager in 2011 and city manager in 2012. Montgomery is a sleepy bedroom community of 11,000 north of Cincinnati. He left his job here in Public Health as a budget analyst, which he’d held for 7 years. Somewhere in that time, he married Judge Mary Kate Huffman, the sister of the newly discovered racist Senator Steve Huffman (“Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that be the explanation for why the higher incidence?”).
Does anyone wonder how all these people get their jobs? Their brother Sam Huffman is also a judge (Miami County Municipal Court). It’s as if we lived in a monarchy, but, of course, that isn’t even remotely possible….. lol.
The City of Centerville has taken a position of stonewalling the citizens who’ve questioned why Sgt. James Myers is no longer a Centerville cop. From using the excuse of Covid-19 to moving meetings at the last minute, to not taking questions from citizens to cutting them off rudely. Mayor Brooks Compton has circled the wagons around Davis claiming that some kind of serious housecleaning was needed and even suggesting that all 17 of the senior staff that’s abandoned the ship left for better jobs.
Of course, that’s why “non-disclosure clauses” are a critical part of Davis’s standard operating procedure.
Much of the Myers case comes from how Davis “disciplined” and “terminated” an employee who was supposedly racist and had done some inappropriate touching. Davis and the city paid him $68K to go away. Oddly, the “touching” was between two adult men who routinely screwing around at work. 27 years of work at the city- and sent packing thanks to a complaint by a 19 year old seasonal employee- who reported it at the end of his summer gig in the exit Interview.
Yet, Davis had another employee, who was also in trouble for racist remarks a few months later, with 29.5 years in. Here, Davis let the guy cash in his last six months to retirement. He signed a resignation agreement with a non-disclosure clause. This didn’t sit well with Myers who thought it was a waste of tax payers money. He had suggested counseling, retraining, etc as more viable options. He’d also written a personal letter of support for the first guy. This is the root of what started the city’s dismissal of Myers, who had enough time to retire anyway.
The group has discovered the power of the Public Records Request. This is where things get really embarrassing for Davis who sent an email over to the other crooked suburb’s city manager asking him to put the screws to a Centerville resident who works for Huber Heights. Guess what Mr. Davis, you really can’t do that. Another citizen turned up a no-bid contract issued to the Greentree Group AKA Back to Business IT, for IT support. No one seems to care anymore about no-bid contracts to political supporters, but in case you didn’t know who the Greentree Group is- they were one of Congressman Mike Turner’s biggest supporters (I made a video of myself panhandling outside their offices in one of my runs for Congress) up until 2012, when you could see their donations. Now, they may be spending money through other channels so it’s not so obvious (Ohio makes it nearly impossible to track campaign finance reports without a good tip of where to look).
But the best piece of citizen journalism was finding an email from the Centerville PR person Kate Bostdorff (formerly Kate Bartlett of WHIO TV) to Wayne Baker who is formerly an employee of the Dayton Daily News, which he did a copy and paste job as “journalism” in the paper in his second story about the Myers dismissal. Dayton Daily News editor Jim Bebbington won’t discuss Baker’s employment status, claiming it’s a personnel issue. Baker started at the paper in July 2015 according to his Linkedin. Baker won’t talk either.
The next article out of the paper, by Nick Blizzard was just as much of a hot mess. The article about the appeals board decision on Myers, somehow gets sidetracked to talk about another employee who was terminated for bigotry and inappropriate touching so that the casual reader could misinterpret it to be about Myers. The paper ran a clarification the next day on page 2, without apologizing to Myers or even admitting that they’d never talked to him about any of this.
One of the members of the Facebook group is a former council member. Back in his day, he remembers that the kind of shit Wayne Davis and this commission is getting away with would never have happened. He said that there was always a reporter from the Dayton Daily News and the local Centerville paper too (sorry- I can’t remember the correct name.) at the meetings to keep an eye on things. This is one of the reasons that moving to unigov would help make local government more transparent and accountable. With less politicians, less jurisdictions, less elections and less meetings, the limited number of reporters now available could actually cover these stories properly.
It’s almost funny these days, one of the companies who helped destroy local news-Google is now buying very expensive full page ads saying “Support Local News” in the Dayton Daily News each Sunday. They want you to subscribe to a paper that can’t fact check or give credit to other local journalists if their lives depended on it. Dayton Daily news Editor Jim Bebbington was nice enough to talk to me as I prepped this story- but, still refuses to allow his reporters to credit stories I break in his publication.
I’ve wanted to write this story for weeks, but, because of impact of covid-19 on my business, I’ve had little extra time to work on my non-paying side-gig- this blog.
Wile everyone thinks the culture of corruption is just limited to downtown, it’s not. It’s pervasive in this community, linked together by alliances and patronage positions run by the two parties in their back room deals. It’s why judges don’t face opposition, why no one challenges the prosecutor or the sheriff, and that people who don’t even live in the district get away with holding elected positions that require it.
That’s why you read esrati.com and I thank you.