Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore said he no longer intends to report a councilman who he claims committed an ethics violation.
Gore in August said he planned to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding an alleged breach of executive session privilege by Councilman Ed Lyons. The issue was related to a May 3 executive session discussion between council members regarding the city manager search process, information from which was subsequently shared with a candidate for the job, Gore said.
“I think this needs to be at least looked at by the (Ohio) Ethics Commission (to) determine whether or not a violation actually happened,” Gore said at the time.
Gore now says he will not report the issue. In an email to Dayton Daily News on Monday, Gore referenced the pained city manager hiring process, which was put on hold in July after a months-long search that triggered accusations of obstruction, bias, and political ploys among members of council.
“The council majority had agreed to pause the search to allow some space from the distractions and some time for professionalism to take root,” Gore said in the emailed statement. “Although emails and public records exist that outline the ethics infraction of Mr. Lyons, at this time, I have decided that continuing with a reported charge is not in the best interest of successfully hiring a city manager in the future.”
Gore said he originally learned about the alleged ethics violation when he received an email from city manager candidate Gerald Smith just days after the May executive session discussion.
According to emails obtained by the Dayton Daily News in August through a public records request, Smith had emailed Patty Heminover of hiring consultant Baker Tilly, stating that he’d been informed, during a phone call with Lyons, that some members of council had concerns regarding his employment history, specifically his brief stints in some of his previous positions. In the email, Smith said he was encouraged by Lyons to send an email to council explaining these tenures.
Gore said these concerns were discussed confidentially on May 3 and that he was surprised to receive the email from Smith three days later, in which he provided specific reasons for these short-term employments.
Lyons initially denied the accusations of breaching executive session privilege and said discussions of these concerns also occurred between himself and another council member outside of a private meeting. “It’s not covered by executive session privilege unless it happens in executive session,” he said at the time.
Gore said the problem arises when the privileged information discussed privately between two council members is then shared with someone who had not been part of the executive session.
Lyons said Tuesday that he has discussed the issue with his lawyer, who he claims determined the complaint to be “frivolous.”
“I took public information and I reached out to an interviewee and asked him to clarify (his previous job tenures) to council,” Lyons said. “Anything that the mayor says happened otherwise is complete fabrication.”
Lyons said Gore’s initial claim that he intended to report the complaint, along with the subsequent decision not to, can be chalked up to “politics of the day in Huber Heights,” which Lyons describes as an ongoing issue within the city’s government that dates back to former Mayor Tom McMasters’ time in office. McMasters’ term, which spanned from 2014 to 2018, was rife with controversy.
“All (Gore) was doing was trying to get a headline attacking me ... His whole entire focus is to make me look negative in the eyes of the public,” Lyons said, adding that he believes Gore’s motivation is to get Lyons replaced by a more “favorable ally” when his term as councilman of Ward 6 is up next year. “He’s using his position as mayor to do that from the dais, and it’s a really sad state of affairs.”
Moving forward, Gore said he will “ensure safeguards are in place to make sure this infraction does not happen again,” though he did not specify what those safeguards may entail.
“It is my hope that Mr. Lyons has learned in this process that breaching executive session discussions to interfere in the hiring of a city employee is not appropriate,” Gore said. “At this time, I am satisfied leaving the fate of Mr. Lyons in the hands of the Huber Heights voters of Ward 6.”