At least two Huber Heights City Council members intend to discuss the municipal government’s handling of public records during Monday’s council meeting amid allegations a record was “stolen” from city archives, this newspaper has learned.
Councilman Ed Lyons said a city administrator informed him Tuesday that a one-page original document is missing from the city council archives. Councilman Richard Shaw said he, too, had a conversation within the past week with the city administrator during which he learned part of a document — one he previously retrieved while city hall was closed — is apparently missing.
Both members said they will address the issue in open session Monday.
“I truly believe, if you want my honest opinion on why this is missing, is because we have professionals in this city that like to play games,” Shaw said, without openly specifying who those people might be or why they would take a record available online. “This is an opportunity to provide proof that if we don’t lock these records up, this is what can happen.”
Ohio law prohibits improper destruction, removal and damage of records and provides civil penalties for the offense. Those penalties include attorney’s fees and civil action to recover a forfeiture of $1,000 per violation, not to exceed $10,000 regardless of the number of violations.
Shaw said the record in question is the first page of the city council’s Nov. 24, 2008, minutes during which council discussed issues involving DEC, the developer of the Carriage Trails neighborhood. Shaw said he accessed the records during a weekend when city hall was closed in order to do research ahead of a council meeting during which DEC issues would be discussed.
When that meeting occurred on April 19, Shaw left council chambers to retrieve the meeting minutes binder and read aloud from them upon his return, he said. Before returning the binder, Shaw said he inserted a sheet of paper into the binder to bookmark a page he wished to copy later.
Shaw says he never returned to copy the page. However, he said the clerk of council told him both his bookmark and an original record were missing. Shaw maintains he did not remove the page, nor would he have reason to do so.
Lyons said he emailed fellow council members to inform them of his intention to discuss the missing record with council after it was not brought up during last Tuesday’s work session. That email, obtained by this newspaper when it was sent to media by Mayor Tom McMasters, details Lyons’ concerns with the situation.
“I brought up this topic and told both (City Manager Rob Schommer and Law Director Alan Schaeffer) that I would be bringing this up on Monday at our city council meeting because I do not want to be involved in any allegations of a cover up,” Lyons wrote Wednesday afternoon.
A receptionist at Huber Heights City Hall said Schommer and other members of city administration were unavailable Friday. Schaeffer, an attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
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