The union representing Huber Heights police officers penned a letter to city council this week accusing Councilwoman Janell Smith of attempting “to fracture the trust that the citizens of Huber Heights have with members of their police division.”
The Fraternal Order of Police lodge’s letter, first reported by the Dayton Daily News, comes amid a heated fight between Smith and residents who seek to recall her from office in November’s general election.
The union representing Huber Heights firefighters also sent council a letter backing the police and decrying Smith for making “statements that would lead to discredit the reputation that these men and women have spent an entire career building.”
During the Monday’s council meeting, Smith said she felt she could not count on the city police and legal department to protect her.
Smith did not return several calls to her home and mobile phones Wednesday and Thursday seeking comment for this story. On Facebook, she wrote, “My words have been taken completely out of context, which is just another attempt to catapult my reputation and integrity into question and sway the voters.”
Smith wrote she supports public safety services “even when they don’t support me!”
Smith was censured Monday by a majority of Huber Heights council members for contacting the employer of a resident who is associated with the political action committee backing the recall effort. The censure essentially demonstrates that council, as a body, disapproves of Smith’s behavior.
In a statement, Smith’s attorney Michael McNamee said Mayor Jeff Gore’s investigation into a complaint filed against Smith and the resulting censure against Smith, “without providing her with notice or a right of appeal, was a clear violation of her constitutional rights of both procedural and substantive due process.”
The FOP letter said, “Police officers have a tough job, and it gets much tougher when an elected official publicly states that they cannot count on the police officers who protect this community.”
“We can guarantee that all allegations of criminal conduct in this city are investigated fully and when necessary, are reviewed with our prosecutors,” the letter said. “It is unfortunate when the law, and application of the said law, doesn’t favor individuals, that they resort to attacking the most important thing that the police have with the people they serve — trust — and the ability for our community to count on us to do our job.”
The FOP letter does not directly reference an October 2017 incident between Smith and then-candidate for mayor Gore, but that particular incident was referred to external prosecutors after Smith accused Gore of assault. Specifically, Smith said Gore “used his index finger and poked her in the upper right chest area ‘really hard’” during an argument. A police report said the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office declined to take the case, as did several other prosecutors, leading the police to close the case.
“It was blatantly a false allegation,” Gore said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “It was in the middle of the farmers market in the middle of the afternoon … everyone refused to look at it because it was clear it was a made-up allegation.”
This September, Smith filed a complaint attesting she has been harassed by two individuals online. Records in that case show police referred the matter to Vandalia’s prosecutor, who said “Facebook posts regarding Mrs. Smith’s performance on council are protected First Amendment speech” and there was “no probable cause” to charge either individual with telecommunications harassment.
Gore said he agreed with the FOP’s letter condemning Smith’s actions.
“I think it’s extremely unfortunate that we’re having to have this discussion,” Gore said. “I think it’s unfortunate our public safety officials feel the need to have to protect themselves against an elected official.”
Gore would not comment on the recall effort against Smith. “I ran for mayor because I wanted to change the narrative about the city. I have a vision for this city, and that’s my focus. The residents can decide if they want Mrs. Smith a part of that.”
Other council members expressed similar support of the FOP’s letter.
“I’m disappointed,” said Councilman Mark Campbell. “I have the utmost respect for the Huber Heights PD and we will, as it relates to the comments in their letter, we will continue to strive for excellence, and I apologize that a member of council made the statements that were made from the dais. We have an excellent police division.”
Councilman Ed Lyons said the police department “is one of the best in the country and they have our best interests and our safety in mind every single day, and it’s very unfortunate that they feel they have to take action in such an unfortunate situation as to have a sitting council member make that statement.”