Mayor takes Huber Heights city manager to court over records

Huber Heights Mayor Tom McMasters wants copies of audio recordings he believes City Manager Rob Schommer may have made of city council members, according to a complaint the mayor filed Monday in the Ohio Court of Claims.

It is not clear if any recordings exist, however. The filing is the latest development in a back-and-forth dispute between council members, the city manager, and their attorneys concerning a letter Schommer’s attorney sent to the city law director about Councilwoman Janell Smith.

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McMasters tells the Dayton Daily News he filed the complaint so an authority such as the court “could say if this (the alleged recordings) is a public record or not.”

State law gives Ohioans the option of resolving public records disputes in the Ohio Court of Claims. The court has a mediation process intended to quickly resolve conflicts over whether records that have been requested are public or not.

Smith said she also filed a records request last week for copies of recordings Schommer may have made.

When asked Tuesday, City Attorney Gerald McDonald and City Manager Rob Schommer did not say if the city manager in fact made any recordings.

“We are looking into this matter,” McDonald said.

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McMasters’ complaint states a few months ago a city employee told him they were “aware the city manager was recording his conversations with members of council.”

The issue stems from a letter an attorney for Schommer sent to McDonald this month. That letter claimed that Smith berated Schommer during a phone call in which she engaged in ‘a very unprofessional conversation’ with him in a conversation about new street banners. Smith denies that she was unprofessional in the conversation.

After learning about Schommer’s letter, McMasters “requested Mr. Schommer provide any recordings Mr. Schommer might have of conversation between he and Ms. Smith.”

“This request was made both as part of the complaint process and as a public records request,” McMasters said in his complaint.

McMasters said Schommer has not responded to the records request filed last week.

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Schommer maintains his letter was never intended as a formal complaint, though his lawyer, David Duwel, referred to the document as a complaint in an email with McDonald.

Because the document was originally considered as a complaint, it went to McMasters, who as mayor investigates formal complaints against members of council.

Later, the city attorney told the Daily News the letter was no longer being considered as a formal complaint, and that he would be “looking into some of the issues raised in the letter and reporting back to council to see if there are any violations involving the city.”

McMasters maintains anything McDonald does to investigate Schommer’s letter has to be coordinated with him.

“He’s an advisor to council and an advisor to me, and he needs to understand his role,” McMasters said of McDonald in an interview.

The newspaper asked McDonald to respond to the mayor’s comments.

“I serve as the chief legal advisor to council, the city manager, and all city departments, divisions, offices and other agencies, boards or commissions,” McDonald said by email. “I represent the city in all legal proceedings and perform any other duties prescribed in this charter, by legislation or the general laws of Ohio and will continue to do so.”

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Staff Writer Laura Bischoff contributed reporting from Columbus.

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