HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights City Council Member Janell Smith called for council to fire City Manager Rob Schommer at Monday night’s council meeting.
Schommer was out of town and was absent from Monday’s meeting.
Smith called for Schommer’s firing after council discussed the city’s five-year capital improvements plan.
“I make a motion to remove our city manager from his position effective immediately,” Smith said.
Smith noted that one of the city’s manager’s duties as described in the city charter is to provide council with a capital improvements plan. Council members agreed the last such plan was presented nearly a decade ago.
Smith said that failure was one of the reasons for her motion. She also cited Schommer’s failure to meet the city’s residency requirement as city manager.
“We are breaking our charter two different ways right now, and I’m not OK with that,” she said.
The charter provision requiring residency is likely unenforceable based on Ohio Supreme Court rulings saying that upheld a law barring cities from requiring employees to live in the city.
“We’re here to do a job. Taking personalities out of the equation and looking at this on a professional and business level, if we allow this to continue we are enabling the city manager to break the charter.”
Smith said the residents of Huber Heights voted earlier this year to uphold the portion of the city charter that calls for officials to live in the city. Schommer does not live in Huber Heights. She also commented on lack of communication and failure to conduct employee evaluations as reasons for the motion.
“I think this has been a long time coming and I’ve been patient enough and the people have been patient enough,” she continued.
Council Member Judy Blankenship walked out of the meeting when Smith made her motion and Council Member Ed Lyons disagreed with Smith.
“I think Rob Schommer is doing an incredible job despite the tension, the politics, the personalities,” he said. Lyons said the city has several legal opinions that say the city’s residency requirement is unconstitutional based on Ohio Supreme Court decisions.
Lyons said he believed Smith’s demand stems from a personal dispute between Smith and Schommer that dates back to Schommer’s time as Huber Heights police chief when Smith said Schommer followed her son on the way to school. Lyons said Schommer was responding to a request to help Smith with a bullying issue at the time.
Smith immediately responded to what she called “Mr. Lyons’ outrageous comments.”
She said Lyons’ account of the incident with her son was incorrect and that Schommer eventually admitted and apologized. She said she has no personal agenda against Schommer.
“The reason why I would recommend for this dismissal is because our city manager is currently breaking two portions of our charter,” she said. “By him breaking that and us allowing him to do that, that means that we are also in violation of our charter.”
Smith reiterated she felt Schommer’s lack of cooperation with council was a major issue.
“It is impossible to run this city when you have someone sabotaging you at every step and turn,” she said.
Mayor Tom McMasters then entered the discussion with his view of the city manager.
“I do not feel that I can go into the city manager’s office and have a discussion with him and get information that I can expect to be using, information that I can use going forward at a later, future date,” McMasters said.
McMasters pointed to the five-year capital plan, which he said he had been asking for since before he was elected. “This is the first time we’ve seen such a thing,” he said.
“I personally think we have been hindered here in our discussions because I can’t go talk to the city manager,” he said.
McMasters also pointed to what he called job performance issues with the city parks.
At this point, Council Member Glenn Otto, who had seconded Smith’s motion in order to allow discussion on the issue, withdrew his second. That left the motion without a second, so no vote was taken.
But it wasn’t the last word on the subject.
Resident Carl Urbanis, a former school board member, took council to task for debating Schommer’s performance in public.
“We never allowed conversation like this to take place in open session in regard to negative comments about any employee,” Urbanis said, referring to his time on the school board. “I think this is ethically wrong to have this discussion in open session.”
After the meeting, Smith said, “I’m not really sure what happens now. We’ll have to go back into executive and collectively agree on our next course of action.
“It just seems like we’re kicking it down the road and letting someone else take care of our problems.”
Smith said she hopes to resolve the issue before the year ends.
“I think we owe it to the people to have a resolution before then,” she said. “They voted in May and this is already October and we’re still ignoring it.”
Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.