Some Huber Heights residents have called for a third-party investigation after allegations of conflict of interest were made about the relationship between Councilman Mark Campbell and general contractor Ken Conaway — claims both individuals say are false.
Huber Heights Mayor Tom McMasters said Tuesday night the matter is essentially closed after the city attorney concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.
Campbell, a long-time city official, and Conaway — who has managed multiple projects for the city, including the new music center — happened to be in Orlando at the same time the week of Thanksgiving.
A photo of Campbell and Conaway riding a roller coaster together — the other riders’ faces are covered up — surfaced on Facebook, leading some residents to allege a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety. Campbell and Conaway deny any impropriety, and Campbell went as far as to sign a sworn affidavit on Monday.
“It is not (a conflict of interest),” Campbell said. “Our friendship is outside of my duties as a council person. I respect both the relationship I have with Ken and the relationship I have with the taxpayers, and I keep them separated.”
Resident Janell Smith sent an email to McMasters Monday morning, asking for an “external investigation,” writing that the photos of Campbell and Conaway at Disney World together is “damning to our City, her reputation and integrity.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not,” said Smith, who plans to run for City Council in November. “It’s a matter of morals. Perception is reality a lot of times. The perception that this is morally wrong is there.”
City Council spent about two hours Tuesday night discussing the issue.
“I’m very concerned, but I don’t know what the question is,” McMasters said. “Sometimes appearances might suggest something. … I don’t know what we would investigate. I can’t make any conclusions one way or another.”
Details of Campbell’s sworn affidavit included:
- Campbell was advised on the airplane ride to Florida that Conaway and his wife also were going to be at Disney World.
- The two parties had separate travel arrangements, arriving and leaving on different days.
- They shared Thanksgiving dinner together, and all parties paid their own costs.
- They spent part of two days together touring Disney World, and all parties paid their own costs.
- Campbell paid for all expenses incurred by his family at Disney World, without reimbursement.
- Campbell has “never received anything of value from Mr. Conaway, directly or indirectly, cash or otherwise.”
“This issue stretches into common sense, good judgment, appropriate behavior,” resident Richard Stan said. “It’s in the court of public opinion, and 38,000 people are going to make an appropriate decision.”
City attorney Alan Schaeffer formally responded to the accusations Monday night. In an email sent to McMasters and council, Schaeffer concluded that “unless additional facts are forthcoming that demonstrate some wrongdoing, I am of the opinion that no violation of any laws have occurred.”
Schaeffer said Campbell made his bank statement and credit card statement available to him, which revealed that Campbell paid for all of his family’s expenses to Disney.
” … Unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct presented in very poor taste have been made,” Schaeffer said.
Emery Phipps Jr., who ran Campbell’s campaign for re-election in 2009, also said an unbiased investigation must occur.
“I’m not calling for anyone’s head on a platter,” said Phipps, who runs the Brick City Watchdogs Facebook page. “I just want somebody to look into this stuff. … It’s all about ethics in my mind.”
Former Mayor Ron Fisher, who lost to McMasters in November 2013, attended Tuesday night’s meeting, and called the accusations against Campbell and Conaway a “witch hunt.”
“I’m sick of what I’m hearing,” Fisher said.
Conaway was recently asked by the city to perform due diligence, at no cost, on a potential site for a new fire station. Council on Dec. 29 approved the motion 6-1, a vote that Campbell recused himself from.
Councilman Tyler Starline voted against it, noting the city should put the project manager position for the project out to public bid. A professional services contract is not subject to a competitive bid process, per city ordinance, officials said.
Smith contends Campbell should have recused himself in previous votes related to Conaway. But Campbell said his recusal that night was a one-time decision.
“I just feel like I’ve been stalked for 12 months solid,” Campbell said. “I feel I’ve been cyberbullied. That’s why I recused myself. I didn’t want to take a chance of jeopardizing the third fire station.”