Yellow Springs village council member censured

Credit: A Jonny No

Credit: A Jonny No

Councilwoman Laura Curliss was censured on Monday night by the Yellow Springs village council for actions they said were creating a toxic work environment.

The vote was 4-1. Curliss, who is running for reelection in November, was the only council member who voted against the resolution.

The resolution alleges that Curliss called the village’s law director “honey,” repeatedly using curse words to describe the village’s local police department, called officers “criminals,” threated to remove the village manager and other employees from their positions, made a remark saying there was “no rational basis” to wear masks to protect against COVID-19 outside when social distancing was not possible, made inflammatory comments about the need to preserve green space at Mills Lawn Elementary School, and more.

Councilwoman Marianne MacQueen introduced the resolution.

Curliss says the allegations are false and she called the accusations “libelous” and said she immediately asked for the agenda item to be removed.

“I asked for my due process rights, I asked for a hearing, I asked for legal counsel. I asked for a bill of particulars, because they claim I violated council rules, but if you notice, every single accusation is not tied to a rule,” Curliss said.

Council members said they had privately addressed this behavior in executive sessions and felt the behavior had escalated to a point where they needed to publicly censure her.

“We as a council cannot allow our employees to be verbally abused and demeaned,” said Lisa Kreeger. “As council members, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. I mean, these interaction challenges have been extreme.”

Councilman Kevin Stokes said council had witnessed the issues themselves.

“I submit that there’s a pattern here or a progression or trajectory, where I think efforts in the past have been made to curtail that trajectory, and they have as of today been unsuccessful and this is just the logical next step,” Stokes said.

Brian Housh, council president, said he wished council had censured Curliss sooner.

“This is a reasonable response, but I agree, I wish we had done it sooner,” he said. “But we had hoped not to.”

Curliss said she planned to tell voters about an “abuse of power.” She noted the election, in which she is running, is coming up. She said she did not know yet if she planned to take action against council.

“It could not be more political,” Curliss said of the resolution.

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