An economic driver of the region that has had millions of dollars pumped into it in recent years is seeking to regain stability in its local government.
Miami Twp. has been a center of development since the opening of the Austin interchange, but has been beset with high-level internal issues for more than a year that have left it “adrift,” said Paul Leonard, former Ohio lieutenant governor and Dayton mayor who now is an adjunct professor of political science at Wright State University.
The home of the Dayton Mall and the burgeoning Austin Landing complex has been embroiled in a slew of high-level internal issues – ranging from ethical questions, to firings, to lawsuits and settlements - that have stained its stature.
Since September 2012, the township has fired an administrator, human resources director and deputy police chief while its police chief retired. Meanwhile, two new trustees were elected in November and a third is expected to be appointed in April.
“It’s almost like a soap opera unveiling itself chapter after chapter,” Leonard said.
During that same time frame, the township has approved building permits totaling more than $33 million by developers’ estimates, said Kyle Hinkelman, township planner.
And while the development interest in the township is expected to continue, newly-elected trustees Robert Matthews and Andrew Papanek are looking to put its local government on a course to restore its image.
“There’s no question we’ve had some negative issues,” said Papanek, vice president of the trustees.
A key issue, both trustees and Leonard agree, will be the ability to set a solid tone of leadership and ethics. Toward that end, trustees this week hired Greg Rogers as administrator, a position he was serving in an acting capacity, and that had been vacant since Greg Hanahan was fired in February 2013.
One philosophy, Papanek said, would have been to hire an administrator from outside of the township, to provide what Leonard called “a fresh face.” In the end, Papanek said, he and Matthews did not think that was the best route.
“We didn’t see a need to change from in-house,” he said. “But we wanted to bring on the strongest person as township administrator.”
Matthews called Rogers a “known quantity of integrity” who will best serve the township with his leadership and ethical standards.
Rogers said he plans “to move forward in a positive sense.
“We do need strong leadership,” he said. “Our elected officials have demonstrated strong leadership and have entrusted me to do the same. In fact, they’ve made that quite clear to me.”
Rogers and Matthews said a top priority will be bringing organizational stability as part of a strategic plan to provide the township with more efficient services. The plan will be broken down by department and include short-term, mid-term and long-term issues, Rogers said.
“You don’t do that overnight,” he said. “It will take several months.”
Part of the organizational plan includes hiring a police chief, he said. Ron Hess, a former Miamisburg police captain, has been serving as the acting chief following the retirement of John “Chris” Krug. Krug left in June.
Rogers said he is planning to schedule for every township employee a full day of training, which will include ethics and sexual harassment issues.
Since September 2012, issues have surfaced about employees’ improper use of township computers, including using them to visit pornographic websites and a former deputy police chief’s improper conduct involving hosing down a naked 17-year-old girl who had been pepper sprayed.
To help ensure the township is in step with required policies and procedures, it has hired a compliance officer. Initially brought on as a consultant, Mukesh Singh, who works with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, is now a part-time employee with a monthly salary of $5,000, according to township records.
Another key position expected to be filled next month is the trustee slot Charles Lewis has held for 10 years. Lewis publicly announced last week he will be resigning effective Monday. Papanek said one interview has already occurred while three others are scheduled for Monday.
The Dayton Daily News on Tuesday filed a public records request to obtain the names and other information about the candidates. The township is reviewing the request.
Trustees have 30 days to fill the position, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
While Papanek said he is pushing for more transparency in local government, the process has been criticized for not being transparent enough. Dale Bennett, a former trustee candidate, questioned why the deadline to apply was March 21 when Lewis did not publicly announce his decision until the following Tuesday.
“They’re keeping things hush-hush…not informing the community,” Bennett said.