When government goes political: misuse of authority in Dayton

According to the Dayton Daily News, Matt Joseph and Nan Whaley directed the city “public information officer,” Tom Biedenharn, to hold a press conference to talk about the national unemployment rate which is being used as a political football in the presidential race.

Mayor Leitzell sat in the audience and reportedly told the paper that this belonged down the street in Democratic HQ. The city law director, John Danish, and the deputy city manager, Stanley Earley, should both be reprimanded or dismissed for not understanding the difference between politics and government. This is pretty cut and dried.

City Hall is where official city  business takes place. Official city business of the commissioners, by charter, is handled at the charter-specified single legal meeting of the week: held on Wednesdays and attended by at least 3 commissioners. To make an official statement- they would need to hold a vote and have at least three votes in support. There is no confusion about what is appropriate or legal here- this partisan political stunt by two little-league commissioners should result in an investigation and some sort of penalty if not criminal charges.

We just went through a long drawn-out discussion on what was allowed in the SB-5/Issue 2 vote- where it was even questioned whether buttons could be worn on city property by employees.The use of Obama campaign graphics in official city business is clearly a partisan party activity.

While you can read the whole DDN story here: Questions raised after Romney criticized in city news release there is one choice quote from Whaley- who apparently believes it is OK to hold political discussions in public space:

“I’m talking about two people running for political office and the effects they will have on the city,” said Whaley. “City Hall is a public space.”

Which brings us to the Occupy protesters. Isn’t Courthouse Square a public space? The protesters were talking about two classes of people and one of them is running the country and having a huge effect on the city. If City Hall is “public space”- then, I guess the protesters should just take up residence in the Commission Chambers. Considering I was arrested in that public space by former Mayor (now Congressman) Mike Turner for symbolic political speech protesting proposed guidelines to limit public speech (discussed in an illegal meeting of the commission) I can tell you that Whaley apparently has no clue about what official city business is- and when it’s appropriate to use city resources for political speech. By the same standard, she should be arrested- or at least censured by the other three members of the commission.

Here is a well-measured interview with Mayor Leitzell by David Sparks with the Dayton Informer of our self-proclaimed independent mayor (I believe him- but the endorsement of the Republican party of his campaign is still a question mark) on this topic:

He correctly states that Whaley’s and Joseph’s actions could be interpreted as the beliefs of all Daytonians which is clearly not the case. If nothing else, Whaley and Joseph should be charged personally for rental of the room, salaries of public employees involved in this- including the time wasted fielding questions on the legitimacy of this press release.

If not- let’s occupy the commission chambers. It’s now been declared a public space.

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