Huber Heights mayor, council, NAACP fight over key hire

Mayor Jeff Gore and the Huber Heights City Council have been unable to settle on a new city manager. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Mayor Jeff Gore and the Huber Heights City Council have been unable to settle on a new city manager. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Mayor says council members are obstructing process; council trio says delay was Gore’s call; NAACP cites racial issues in play; press conference slated Wednesday.

The planned vote to appoint a new Huber Heights city manager was delayed again Monday night, and Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore said he believes some city council members are obstructing the process.

At its Monday meeting, city council held a first reading on a resolution to appoint finalist Richard Dzik to the city manager role. Dzik has served as the city of Mount Vernon’s safety service director since the end of 2019.

However, citing the unanticipated absence of Councilman Ed Lyons, Gore called for the resolution to have its second reading at a future meeting, in order to allow all council members to cast their vote. The next regularly scheduled council meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, July 11.

Gore said Monday that he believes the drawn-out hiring process is largely due to “obstruction” by some members of council.

“Mr. (Richard) Shaw, Mr. (Glenn) Otto, and Mr. Lyons expected a different outcome of the election in 2021, and they wanted to then be able to pick who they wanted to be the city manager,” Gore said. “So a lot of what’s happening here is that they’re just trying to replay and re-litigate the election.”

Council members respond

Shaw, Otto and Lyons fired back at Gore on Tuesday.

“Making an accusation that the reason the city manager process is drawn out is due to last year’s election is ludicrous,” Shaw said. “It was very clear from (Monday’s) meeting it was not I or Mr. Otto that was obstructing a vote from taking place; the mayor single-handedly said no.”

About Gore delaying the vote, Shaw said every piece of legislation is important and should get a vote no matter what council members are present.

Otto said the issue has nothing to do with the 2021 election.

“It has everything to do with the fact that we need a city manager; we’ve been out one for almost a year and a half now and we’ve got games being played, trying to put in unqualified people and trying to overlook extremely qualified people,” Otto said Tuesday. “I just want to do the right thing for the city and get the best person we possibly can.”

Lyons said he missed Monday’s meeting due to a prior engagement and denied his absence had anything to do with purposefully skipping the vote to appoint Dzik.

“This is all being handled badly and (Gore) continues to handle it badly,” Lyons said. “Unfortunately, I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.”

Voting procedures

Huber Heights has an eight-member city council, plus the mayor. In accordance with the city’s charter, in the event of a tie vote between council members, Gore will be the tie-breaking vote.

“I can’t (say for sure) because no one’s gone on the record ... but I believe four council members are trying to compromise by hiring Mr. Dzik, and I will say I would vote (in favor of Dzik) to break that tie,” he said. “But the other four members of council, by not showing up to these meetings, are preventing what our charter says is the law.”

Gore said the resolution to appoint Dzik will be on the agenda again July 11, and he called on constituents to contact their city council representatives to demand action.

“I would encourage every resident to reach out to their elected official and urge them to show up and cast their vote,” he said. “That’s the way democracy works in the United States. We might disagree, but you vote, you make your voice heard through your vote, and you win some and you lose some.”

Following Monday’s meeting, several council members declined to specify whether or not they planned to vote in favor of Dzik’s appointment.

ExploreHuber Heights council plans vote on fourth city manager candidate

“Typically, what will happen is a motion will be made and it will be seconded and at that time, there will be discussion on the dais,” Councilman Don Webb said. “I think it would be unfair for me to say, ‘I am going to vote this way’ because the discussion on the dais should lead us in one direction or another.”

The delay comes 15 months after former City Manager Rob Schommer resigned amid controversy in March 2021 after serving as city manager for more than seven years. Bryan Chodkowski has filled in as interim city manager pending appointment of a new candidate.

Hiring process

The human resources firm Baker Tilly vetted applicants and presented Huber Heights council with four candidates — Dzik, John Russell, Gerald Smith and Luke Sims.

Last month, council voted 4-3 against a resolution to approve preliminary contract language related to the appointment of John Russell.

In a meeting earlier this month, Lyons tried to add a resolution approving candidate Gerald Smith for the city manager position. The motion was rejected 4-3.

Then council made a preliminary offer to Sims, but he declined it “to pursue another opportunity,” according to documents obtained from Baker Tilly.

If the resolution to appoint Dzik fails, Baker Tilly will restart the search process, in accordance with terms outlined in the contract.

Racial concerns

Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward attended Monday’s council meeting and expressed frustration that the vote was pushed back. He said the lack of action is leading to a “mistrust” of city leadership.

Foward sent a June 6 letter to the city on behalf of the NAACP, saying candidate Gerald Smith exceeded the city’s posted requirements for the job. Foward also said Monday he has concerns with Dzik’s potential appointment.

“This individual comes with a record from the community of Mount Vernon where he had a vote of no confidence ... but they were still going to vote for this individual to come inside this community,” Foward said. “It’s shameful on the city.”

According to a May 2021 article in the Mount Vernon News, Dzik received a two-week suspension from his role as the city’s safety service director, without pay, “for poor judgment” related to his alleged decision to change the voting order of city council members when two controversial issues were up for final votes. The issue prompted some calls for Dzik’s dismissal or resignation by Mount Vernon council members.

Foward said he believes racial bias is playing a role in council’s decision not to vote on candidate Smith, who is Black.

Gore said city officials have “reservations” with regard to Smith’s most recently held position as city manager of tiny Creedmoor, N.C.

Documents from that city show the Creedmoor Board of Commissioners voted in an emergency meeting May 27 to accept a buyout of Smith’s remaining contract in the amount of $95,412.33. The agreement cites “an unanticipated family issue.”

Gore has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Wednesday at city council chambers “to provide a response to the Dayton NAACP.”

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