Huber Heights former Mayor sues City for Sunshine Law violations

There is no reason for Montgomery County Ohio to have 30+ different jurisdictions (governmental- not including the 18+ school districts- and note- these numbers are guesstimates, because some tax spending organizations can’t even be comprehended to be counted). Call it an empire of banana republics- most electing some well meaning citizens to a position of power for which they have zero training. There is no elected competency test, other than a small proportion of the citizens voting every few years to provide some corrections. The only required training for elected officials is a 3 hour introduction to the “Sunshine Laws”- which in Ohio are routinely violated and ignored (see last post).

Huber Heights is a pretty big city compared to most in the county. I say that because it’s one of the few that extends across county lines (a part is in Miami County). Wikipedia says “Huber Heights is the third largest suburb in the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area by population, behind Kettering with 56,163, and Beavercreek with 45,193. Huber Heights’ current mayor is Jeff Gore. The population of Huber Heights was 38,101 at the 2010 census.

Now when you consider that Miami Township (also according to Wikipedia- “is one of the nine townships of Montgomery County, Ohio, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 50,735.” which puts Huber in 4th place- if cities were cities and townships weren’t just tax havens.

But, that’s not what this story is about. Back around 1913, right after the flood, due to a preponderance of corruption by elected officials, the story goes that John Patterson of NCR pushed forward a new model of government where professional “City Managers” would be in charge- overseen by a City Commission/Council of part time citizens who would serve as a check and balance on the professional running the city. You can read about this form of government that is used by about 40% of large cities in the US on Wikipedia: Council-Manager Government.

In the late 50’s- due to a rise in public corruption and distrust, especially after the McCarthy era of government behaving badly, The Federal version, the Freedom of Information act, was passed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966.

What these laws were supposed to do is to force the government to work in the open, since their business is the public’s business. They spend your tax dollars, to provide services for you. Examples of government services that should be obvious are police, fire, street maintenance, water, trash collection, public health, building and zoning codes, parks and recreation, schools, courts, jails, airports, convention centers, baseball stadiums for private businesses, tax breaks for large corporations… well, you get the point.

It seems that the City of Huber Heights has turned into a hot bed of turmoil that has included recalls of commissioners and frequent changes in leadership. We’ve also had some commissioners who were cozy with developers and even commissioners who weren’t living in the city anymore. We’ve seen a public/private partnership to build and run a YMCA- and a music venue to compete with Kettering’s Fraze Pavillion as signs of life.

But, the strife that goes with all this, which hasn’t been well covered by this site, is too much drama to properly report on has come to a head over the last month, with the recent “resignation” of former City Manager Rob Schommer (who was the police chief before being promoted to City Manager). Some on the council wanted to fire Schommer saying he repeatedly lied to them. Mayor Gore thought that this was too expensive a route to go and that they should pay him off to go quietly. Either way, what the City Managers contract said was that if he was to resign, he had to give 30 days notice. The odd thing about this “contract” was that the City Manager was hired for a fixed term, not at the will of the Commission, and that 5 year term- exceeded the terms of the members of council- so even if the people didn’t like the City Manager and forced a complete change in the council, the manager would still have his job. This is blatantly counter to the premise of this form of government.

What seems to have happened instead of a firing or a true resignation, is the council violated the Sunshine laws to do two things at once- get rid of the city manager and to hire him/buy him out with a consulting contract that we’re still not sure of the value. It could be $150K- for six months- or $170K or $175K, we’re not really sure. This is because the “contract” wasn’t competitively bid, or done in public with time for review by the public. It seemed to be a quid pro quo arrangement- Schommer resigns after he’s promised the chunk of tax dollars and no damage to his reputation by “resigning” instead of being “terminated for cause.”

Former Mayor of Huber Heights, Tom McMasters, filed for injunctive relief on Thursday in Montgomery County Common Pleas court, drawing Judge Tim O’Connell to mediate this mess. Unfortunately, in Ohio, there isn’t a government official like a chief ethics officer, or State Attorney General with balls, or even a county prosecutor who is interested in making sure laws aren’t broken. If you’re lucky, the FBI may step in, like they did in Cincinnati to sort of prosecute the City Commission for round robin text and calls to do discuss what to do with their city manager in private.

McMasters, who isn’t a lawyer, spent a ton of time researching and writing his complaint and brief for which he isn’t able to get paid for should he prevail. If he’d hired a lawyer, with his own money, he may or may not get reimbursed for his legal fees depending on the whim of the judge. He also had to pay the filing fee of $334.75 which he will get back if he wins. And, btw- the penalty the city would owe if they are found guilty? $500, chump change compared to the $150K they are spending on paying off Schommer. He’s asking the Judge to set aside all of these actions, claiming the Council didn’t follow the law by doing these actions in public- with proper time lines- ie- you don’t do a contract for services BEFORE you have a resignation if it’s legal.

Note, this story, is what’s considered the first publication of it. If Dayton had a real newspaper, they’d say something like “this filing by McMasters was first covered by esrati.com, the local news blog of David Esrati” (but, they have a rule not to publish my name unless they can’t avoid it).

Here are his two filings, the complaint and the brief.

Complaint: McMasters v Huber Heights 2021 CV 01213

 

McMasters filing v HH

Of course, if we had one government for all of our county, we wouldn’t have to keep our eyes on so many shifty political types who play these games. That’s the reason I founded Reconstructing Dayton, to help us spend less money on two-bit politics and pay a lot less tax to support all this chicanery. We commend McMasters for doing his part to help bring some Sunshine to Huber Heights. Hopefully, Judge O’Connell isn’t as stupid as judges Richard Skelton and Judge Gerald Parker in the proper application of these laws.

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