Huber Heights changes meeting format, goal to be more ‘professional’

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Huber Heights staff members are no longer required to attend City Council meetings after what has recently evolved into unprofessional settings at those meetings, City Manager Rob Schommer said.

Schommer sent out an email Oct. 13 to city staff informing them that he will be the only staff member to attend council meetings, due to staff being “consistently put under pressure and scrutiny at the regular sessions,” he wrote.

The shift in format will allow council members to deliberate on agenda items, while the committee meetings will be designed for presentations by staff and for council members to give direction, ask questions and seek information.

“It’s a brilliant move,” said Councilman Mark Campbell, chair of the administration committee. “It’s a better use of staff’s time to invest more of their effort at the committee level, so when we get to the formal business meetings, their input and work is done. It will help the city conduct the business meetings more professionally.”

In the email, Mayor Tom McMasters is identified as the primary individual responsible for the “prolonged debates and criticisms directed at staff.”

City Council meets at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays of each month, and there have been times this year when meetings have lasted deep into the night.

“Under the Mayor’s interrogations, staff looks unprepared,” Schommer’s email said. “We all know that is not the case. Staff is diligently prepared based on the input and discussions provided at the committee/work sessions. It is not professional to sit quietly at committee/work sessions, then without notice berate staff at the regular business meeting.”

McMasters said having staff at the regular business meetings is “not useful and a waste of money.” He’d much rather see written reports from staff, he said.

But “discussion needs to happen before the vote,” McMasters said. “We can have that in the committee meetings, but if things come up between committee meetings and council meetings, then that’s when the discussions need to happen. … There has never been any deliberation in council meetings, except when I try to facilitate.”

The Administration, Public Works, and Public Services and Safety committees meet the week prior to City Council meetings. After presentations from staff and any discussions, the respective committees then make a recommendation on the appropriate agenda items.

The new format is expected to be indefinite. Staff members will be asked to attend council meetings if a public presentation or specific information is required, beyond what Schommer can provide.

“We need that discussion and input as early as possible,” Schommer said. “It seemed as if the system was allowing it to be brought about the last minute. We want it as early as possible, not as late as possible.”

McMasters has been at the center of controversy since he took office in January 2014.

McMasters refused to sign travel requests submitted by three city councilwomen, even though the money was approved in the 2015 budget; has been censured by City Council twice; city staff filed a complaint against McMasters; he attached, without authorization, a memo to Schommer's contract stating his disapproval; and has refused to sign legislation that was passed by council.