Search for new Huber Heights city manager continues amid council drama

More than a year after the sudden departure of its city manager, and despite the announcement of four finalist candidates last month, the city of Huber Heights is still seeking a long-term replacement.

During regular session Monday, Councilman Ed Lyons moved to amend the meeting’s agenda to add a resolution approving candidate Gerald Smith to the position, a motion rejected 4-3.

The unanticipated proposal came nearly a month after council voted down a resolution to approve the hiring of John Russell as city manager. That vote, taken on May 23, resulted in a 4-3 rejection.

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Multiple residents had spoken out against Russell’s appointment during the May meeting’s public forum, with some residents citing issues of a potentially biased hiring process and the opinion that Russell’s professional experience and education background does not fit the position’s requirements.

At the time, Mayor Jeff Gore said he couldn’t say with any certainty when, or if, that resolution would be brought for a vote again.

Gore said Tuesday that more discussion is needed between council members to ensure the council is on the same page the next time a vote is held, adding that any such discussion will be held in open session, allowing for residents to weigh in.

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“Any further discussion about the hiring of a city manager — whether we hire one of the existing candidates or whether we start this process over if we can’t come to an agreement on one of the candidates — will be done in open session, it will be announced and people will know so that they can come and voice their opinions,” he said.

Gore, who was absent during Monday’s meeting, said he believes the proposal to amend the agenda allowing for a vote on candidate Smith was rejected by a majority, first and foremost, due to the opposing council member’s intent to promote transparency.

“I think last night was not done in a transparent way and the council members who voted no, I believe, felt that was not in the best interest of the community because nobody knew that (resolution to hire Smith) would be talked about, so that was the wrong thing to do,” he said.

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A resolution to approve any candidate for city manager would need to garner five votes to pass, Gore said. He also touched on an issue that has happened before — council members walking out in the middle of meetings, or even during the voting process.

“As we’ve seen, we’ve had people leave or not show up. We have a minority on council who is using their absences and getting up and walking away to prevent (a resolution) from getting five votes,” Gore said. “So, there are a lot of games being played here and, quite frankly, we’ve got to figure all that out before it even makes sense to have another discussion.”

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