HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights City Council voted to censure Council Member Janelle Smith Monday.
The vote came after Mayor Jeff Gore announced the results of his investigation into a formal complaint filed by Huber Heights resident Walter Sturgeon. Sturgeon filed the complaint after Smith called his employer complaining about Sturgeon’s activities in working for the Smith’s recall from council. Smith faces a recall vote in the Nov. 6 election.
The city’s charter requires that the mayor investigate formal complaints about council members. At the end of Monday’s meeting, Gore announced his findings. Discussion about those findings turned contentious and included occasional outbursts from members of the audience on both sides of the issue.
Gore said he contacted Sturgeon’s employer as well as Smith. He received verification from the company that Smith had called and complained about Sturgeon’s behavior. Gore said he had not received any cooperation from Smith, so he was closing his investigation.
“I am also appalled at the alleged behavior of Mrs. Smith and I do not condone it,” he said.
Smith responded by saying she felt the mayor was out of order by naming her publically in the meeting and that she felt the investigation should not have been concluded.
“I have obtained legal advice on this, I have an attorney, my attorney does have this information and he is answering the questions,” Smith said. “Why this is closed out before my attorney was able to make those answers, I have no idea.”
She went on to say, “What I find very, very disturbing is a constituent can come to city events in his work uniform and continually harass me, continually put out the propaganda of the recall, continually harass me on social media 24 hours a day …”
City Law Director Gerald McDonald said Smith’s attorney had communicated with him and promised to answer the questions posed by Gore, but that he had not received the answers from Smith’s attorney. He even pulled out his cell phone to read the emails and dates to show the answers had not been sent.
Smith then said she had not broken any rules of council or any laws. “This is a skewed process at best, and you’re very, very biased,” Smith said to Gore.
“Nowhere in my statement did I say that you broke any laws,” Gore responded. “I’m appalled at your behavior, I said that, but that is my responsibility as mayor to complete the investigation.”
Councilman Mark Campbell then made the motion that council censure Smith for her actions.
Andy Hill seconded the motion, saying he “couldn’t fathom” a council member contacting someone’s employer in such a way. “When we were elected into this position we’re elected to do good and to do things for the people and yet in a situation like this there’s no reason anybody should be scared to contact me, to contact Glen (Otto), to contact Ed (Lyons) about something,” he said.
Councilman Seth Morgan called events like Monday’s discussion “massive distractions.” He said he would vote for the censure, but called on council members to be more professional and asked for better decorum from members of council.
That led to Gore’s announcement that at council’s next work session there will be discussion about a social media policy for council members.
Smith then addressed council members about the censure motion.
“I did not call on behalf of the city, I called on behalf of myself,” she said. “This has created such a hostile living environment that half the time, you can ask my family, I’m afraid to leave my home because I don’t know who’s going to be looking over my shoulder, who is going to be showing up at city events harassing me. It’s not right.
“I am asking my colleagues to vote no,” she continued. “I am asking them to vote no and to stand up to this kind of bullying.
“I’ve done all I can do. I don’t regret doing it. If I had another guy that was stalking me, hounding me, I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.
She said she could not count on the city’s law department or police department.
“Who wants to live in a city like this? Who wants to be an elected official in a community like this? Think about what we’re doing to each other. Think about our community as a whole. It is time to move on from this maliciousness and let’s heal.”
Councilman Glen Otto said he did not approve of Smith’s actions, but since he had received only one email from Gore on the issue, he didn’t have enough information to decide on the censure. He said he believed it was a civil issue, not one for council.
Council then voted 6-1 to censure Smith with Smith voting no and Otto abstaining. The censure does not result in any action against Smith other than expressing council’s displeasure with Smith’s action.
That wasn’t the end of the debate, though. Two members of the audience got up to support Smith and Sturgeon thanked council for its vote before Gore gaveled the meeting to a close.
After the meeting, Smith said the vote did not change anything. “I will continue to stand up and fight,” she said. “We’ll just have to see where this goes.”
Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.