Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore said he plans to report a complaint to the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding an alleged breech of executive session privilege by Councilman Ed Lyons.
Gore made the announcement at a city work session Tuesday, during which council members discussed the allegations.
According to Gore, information from a May 3 executive session discussion between council members, regarding the city manager search process, was subsequently shared with candidate Gerald Smith.
According to emails obtained by the Dayton Daily News through a public records request, Smith emailed Patty Heminover of hiring consultant Baker Tilly, stating he had 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.
“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 Tuesday. “I think there’s clearly enough evidence that says, at a minimum, we should have them (investigate).”
Lyons initially denied the accusations of breaching executive session privilege and said discussions of these concerns 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,” Lyons said last week.
However, during Tuesday’s work session, Lyons asked whether or not two members of council could speak privately about an issue previously discussed in executive session.
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.
“I think that’s a violation because you’re sharing information with somebody who was not in executive session, specifically in this case, the candidate that we were talking about,” Gore said.
Councilwoman Nancy Byrge spoke in support of the mayor’s decision to file a report, noting that all contact with candidates should go through Heminover.
“If you have multiple people contacting candidates, you’ve compromised the whole system because you’re not giving that same benefit to all other candidates,” she said.
Other council members, including Anita Kitchen, spoke in opposition.
“If this was an issue, why didn’t it get brought up two months ago? I thought we were done with this (and) that we were going to work on getting along,” Kitchen said.
In an email to the Dayton Daily News, Lyons countered the accusation by referring to an incident at a March 2021 special council meeting during which he says executive session privilege was breached by multiple members of council.
That discussion was about council’s March 8 approval of the resignation and consultation agreement with former City Manager Rob Schommer. Lyons questions why no effort was taken by the mayor to report the alleged violations in this instance.
“Mayor Gore asks Councilman Hill about what he remembers was discussed by council in executive session, then (Hill) gives his answer,” Lyons said in the email. “He goes on to ask me, and I say I am not going to say anything until a vote is taken to legally divulge what was said in executive session.”
Lyons said multiple other council members answered the same question from Gore.
“Several council members seem to violate executive session confidentiality during (this questioning). This is very hypocritical,” Lyons said. “(Gore) accuses me of ‘maybe’ committing an ethics violation when his supporters actually do violate executive session confidentiality at his request. Funny how he never accused them of an ethics violation isn’t it?”
Gore responded that his actions during the March 15, 2021 meeting were an attempt to “correct the false narrative that they didn’t know what they voted on,” referring to some members of council claiming differing opinions about what was and was not discussed in executive session.
“In the actual (Ohio Ethics Commission) opinion on this, it uses the word ‘reckless,’ and that’s what (Lyons) did,” Gore said. “It wasn’t a slip up, it was reckless. He called somebody and gave them information we talked about, so he would then send us an email to try to explain away what was going on.”
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