Huber Heights city manager hiring process suddenly in limbo

Monday vote on hiring Russell was not approved; emergency meeting was called for Tuesday, then canceled

Huber Heights city government is having some turmoil over its city manager hiring process.

City council was scheduled to vote Monday night on a resolution to approve hiring John Russell for the position.

Multiple residents spoke against the candidate Monday night, and city council eventually voted 4-3 against an amendment for the move.

“The amendment was exhibit A (contract language) that was to be added to the actual resolution of appointment,” Mayor Jeff Gore said Tuesday. “Since the amendment failed 4-3 there was no resolution to vote on. I can’t say with any certainty when the amendment will be brought for a vote again.”

During Monday night’s meeting, Gore called an emergency meeting for Tuesday to follow up on the issue. But that meeting was then canceled on Tuesday afternoon as not all council members would be available to attend, Gore said.

A resident of Huber Heights, Russell currently serves as the administrative battalion chief for the city’s fire division. He was promoted to that position in March 2021 and has served in various roles within the department since 2000, according to city documents. He also has previous experience with the city of Xenia Fire Division.

Members of the city’s Culture and Diversity Citizen Action Commission were in attendance to express opposition to Russell’s hiring during the meeting’s public comment segment Monday.

Yolanda Stephens, chair of the Culture and Diversity committee, said she feels the hiring process was biased. Stephens said Russell’s professional experience and education background does not fit the position’s requirements.

Along with his role as battalion chief, Russell currently works as an adjunct EMT lecturer at Sinclair Community College and as a realtor for Brennan and Associates Realty Inc. He also serves on the board of directors for both Firefighters and Company Federal Credit Union and the Y at the Heights, his resume states.

Russell earned two associate of applied science degrees from Sinclair Community College, one in fire science administration and one in fire science technology.

“As I look at all of these qualifications that were outlined for the position of city manager within the city of Huber Heights, the candidate chosen does not meet this criteria, does not meet these requirements, which shows that there has to be bias in the selection process,” she said.

ExploreHuber Heights council to vote on fire battalion chief as new city manager

Russell is one of four finalist candidates vetted by Baker Tilly, a human resources firm hired by the city to assist in the search. Council approved a $30,000 contract with the company in October. All four of those candidates were interviewed by council earlier this month. They include Russell, Gerald Smith, Richard Dzik, and Luke Sims.

Stephens questioned council’s hiring process, including whether or not council used a “blind” hiring process to reduce unconscious bias, and asked if the required skills for each candidate were ranked and scored.

“We had four finalists, one of which was an African-American male who possessed all of the qualifications,” she said, referring to candidate Gerald Smith. Smith has experience as a city manager at smaller communities in Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina.

Stephens added that the Culture and Diversity commission serves as a review advisory panel for bias-based issues within the city.

“That is why our commission is represented here tonight to stand against the biased hiring process that impedes us hiring the most qualified candidate for city manager,” Stephens said.

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