Huber Heights residents file grievances over canceled city council meetings

Mayor canceled the March meetings, saying council remains at a standstill; residents say that violates rules

HUBER HEIGHTS — Two Huber Heights residents have filed grievances with the city, claiming Mayor Jeff Gore’s recent decision to cancel a March work session violates council rules.

At the Feb. 27 regular meeting, Gore said council would not meet for a “middle of March” work session due to what he said was a lack of consensus between members. Instead, he said, a work session will be held at 6 p.m. March 27, prior to that date’s regularly scheduled council meeting.

“This council has shown ... we’re kind of at a standstill on lots of different items, so with that being the case, our agendas are getting very, very thin,” he said. “We just don’t need to have as many work sessions as we’ve been having, so I won’t be calling a work session in the middle of March.”

When asked what items council is deadlocked on, and whether or not work sessions and/or regular meetings will continue on an altered schedule, Gore said he does not have an answer.

“Right now, I’m not sure what the schedule is going to look like,” he wrote. “Our legal counsel is reviewing what the options are and based on that legal opinion is how we’ll move forward.”

The Huber Heights City Council has been in a state of turmoil in recent years, an ongoing tension that’s been highlighted through its inability to select and hire a city manager. The city has operated without a permanent city manager since March 2021, and the drawn out replacement process, which was paused for six months and officially restarted in January, has included accusations of obstruction, bias, and political ploys amongst members of council.

Council in January held an annual vote that approved a set of rules for 2023. The rules designate the second and fourth Mondays of each month for regular council meetings, and the Tuesday before each meeting for work sessions.

Both residents claim in their respective grievances that the decision to cancel and reschedule a work session violates the approved rules, specifically Section 4.13, which states the frequency, dates and times of regular meetings must be determined by a majority vote of council.

“Mayor Gore, having made this decision on his own accord and without obtaining the required council majority vote to change/alter those council meetings, clearly violates the stated rules of the city charter,” the grievance reads.

In a response dated March 7, Vice Mayor Kate Baker said she consulted with the city’s legal counsel, concluding no rules were violated.

“Your complaint deals with the mayor’s handling of work session meetings and not the frequency, dates and times of regular meetings,” she said. “There is nothing in 4.13 regarding the holding of work session. Based on the foregoing, it is my opinion that your complaint is unfounded.”

During a Jan. 17 work session, city council held a discussion regarding drafted legislation that would reduce the number of regular council meetings from two to one in the months of June, July, August, and December.

A majority of the seven council members present during the work session objected to bringing the legislation for a vote at the following regular meeting. This included Baker, as well as council members Nancy Byrge, Don Webb, and Mark Campbell.

“Of all the years I’ve been on council, I haven’t seen our workload go down in the summer,” Byrge said. “We’re being paid to be here 12 months a year and I think we owe it to the people who hired us to be here to address the issues that come up during that period of time.”

Given the decision to cancel the mid-March work session, the regular council meeting tentatively set for March 13 was also canceled, though Gore did not explicitly state this in February when he announced the work session cancellation. The March 13 meeting date was subsequently removed from the city’s online schedule, and Clerk of Council Tony Rodgers confirmed the cancellation in an email response to this newspaper, clarifying that the two meetings typically go hand in hand.

“Not holding the mid-March council work session means that there would be no items for consideration at the March 13 city council meeting,” Rodgers said Friday. He declined to comment on whether the March 13 cancellation is a violation of council rules.

Gore indicated a similar schedule change may be implemented in subsequent months pending a “compromise” between council members.

“We’ll just wrap what we have to do up into one meeting and that’s how we’ll move forward until we have some interesting compromise, and (begin) talking and negotiating through things like we actually should,” he said.

But Rodgers on Thursday stated regular meeting schedules are “anticipated to resume” in April.

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