Prosecutor drops attempt to force commissioner off veterans panel

Rev.Wilburt O.Shanklin at a Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission meeting in January 2017. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
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Rev.Wilburt O.Shanklin at a Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission meeting in January 2017. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

Rev. Wilburt O. Shanklin resigned from the panel amid controversy over how he was appointed.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck has dropped an attempt to obtain a court order to remove the newest member of the County Veterans Service Commission after Rev. Wilburt O. Shanklin resigned from the panel, according to a court document.

Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. had asked the County Court of Appeals to remove Shanklin after seven Court of Common Pleas judges signed off on a document that appointed him to the veterans’ commission for a five-year term in December.

“This case is not, and never was, about any individual or person,” Heck said in a statement. “It concerns the appointment process, which in this instance was flawed or tainted at best.”

A message seeking comment was left with Shanklin and an attorney representing him in the matter. A message seeking comment also was left with Court of Common Pleas Administrative Law Judge Mary K. Huffman, whom officials said received the resignation letter. Huffman has said the court legally followed the same appointment process “we use in every single statutory appointment that we make.”

Veterans Service Commission leaders said they became aware of Shanklin’s resignation Monday.

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Appointed to a five-year term, Shanklin attended a Veterans Services Commission meeting in January and others in February, county officials said.

In a resignation letter dated March 1 to the Court of Common Pleas judges, Shanklin wrote the “current litigation has because a distraction for the Court, myself, and the Veterans Board” and added he was resigning “effective immediately. I look forward to further service to our COuntry, my community and God in the coming days.”

The commission’s five seats are filled with recommendations from veterans’ service organizations. Shanklin, a Marine Corps and an Army combat veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam according to court records and his resignation letter, represented a seat set aside for the Disabled American Veterans.

Heck argued in court records Shanklin should be removed from the commission because a local DAV chapter leader submitted the nomination “solely because he was forced to” and before the DAV chapter could vote on the nomination, according to the court filing.

In a Feb. 24 court document, the prosecutor also alleged Shanklin’s appointment was in “direct violation” of state law because he continued to hold another elective or appointive office as chairman of Greater Dayton Premier Management, which manages public housing in the Dayton region. As a Veterans Services Commission member, Shanklin would hear cases of veterans requesting financial aid for issues such as rent payments that might include GDPM properties, court records alleged.

“We are pleased that the right result was accomplished by our filing this action, that the newest appointee resigned, and that the voices and wishes of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are heard and respected,” Heck said.

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Heck’s office had filed a “quo warranto” action seeking the newest member’s removal after Veterans Commission President Ashley Webb met with the prosecutor in January over concerns about the process that led to Shanklin’s appointment.

Webb had sent material to both Heck and to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine arguing Shanklin’s appointment was “unlawful.”

He declined comment on Shanklin’s resignation, which service commission officials say they learned of Monday.

Shanklin was disabled in 1972 while in the military, court records said.

The veterans commissioner submitted his resignation letter to Huffman, according to Greg Flannagan, a spokesman in the prosecutor’s office.

In an interview in December, Huffman had said Webb misinterpreted state law in his contention the Court of Common Pleas had overstepped its bounds. She said then the court legally followed the same appointment process “we use in every single statutory appointment that we make.”

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The controversy was over the timing of the Shanklin appointment and whether he was properly vetted. Huffman has said she was concerned one of the veterans services board members, Tommy D. Adkins, gave wrong information to Shanklin about the deadline to apply for the post.

Adkins had told Shanklin an Oct. 4 deadline to apply for a seat had expired when the Court of Common Pleas had extended the time to apply when one of three people DAV recommended dropped out of contention. Adkins has said he did not know the deadline had been extended.

DAV Chapter 9 commander David J. Weeks submitted Shanklin’s name to replace the candidate who dropped out, but according to the prosecutor’s office court filing, he did so only because he felt he was forced to by the court.

In an Oct. 31 letter to two local DAV post leaders, Huffman said her office had been contacted by a “Montgomery County citizen” about being given false information about the deadline for applying, and directed the DAV to include that citizen’s name to the court for consideration. In the interview with this newspaper in December, Huffman said she did not know who the citizen was and that the court was obligated to consider three candidates.

In an interview in December, Huffman had said Webb misinterpreted state law in his contention the Court of Common Pleas had overstepped its bounds. She said then the court legally followed the same appointment process “we use in every single statutory appointment that we make.”

County Veterans Services Commission officials said with the resignation the DAV will have to submit the names of three candidates to begin the appointment process.

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