Dover City Council braces for legal battles with mayor
DOVER (WJER) (April 18, 2022) – City Council last week authorized spending more money on legal representation as the city fights lawsuits and appeals from Mayor Richard Homrighausen.
Council President Shane Gunnoe criticized Homrighausen, who also wants the city to pay his legal bills.
“For some time, as it relates to the Dover Chemical thing, we heard from the mayor about the cost of litigation and how we should avoid it and how it opens the city up to additional liability,” Gunnoe said, “and in this situation, quite frankly, he’s engaging in … legal action against the city and opening us up for additional legal expenses.”
Dover Law Director Doug O’Meara says he doesn’t know how much it’s going to cost to defend the city against Homrighausen’s complaints. He provided the hourly breakdown.
“I think the partner is about $350, and I think the associate is probably in the range of $320, and the associate associate’s probably in the range of about $280,” O’Meara said. “Paralegals, my guess is about $100. I may be missing some personnel, but, yeah, it’s a lot of money.”
Homrighausen since February has filed two civil complaints and two appeals that list the city as a defendant. They’re all attempts to block a council-approved settlement agreement that reinstates three employees the mayor fired in December.
In court documents, Homrighausen says he lost faith in their ability to do their jobs.
Gunnoe and council members say Homrighausen fired them for blowing the whistle on potentially unlawful practices.
The legislation Council approved last week states the city will defend itself, O’Meara, and the three employees against Homrighausen’s claims.
“One of the things we committed to was that employees of the city of Dover who brought forward cooperative, truthful testimony, that we would ensure that no harm would come to those employees,” Gunnoe said, “and so we have an obligation to ensure that we are defending our employees.”
A grand jury indicted Homrighausen on 15 criminal counts, including theft in office, in March. He has pleaded not guilty.
Special Prosecutor Robert Smith with the State Auditor’s Office is handling the case. He is also trying to get the mayor suspended from office at the state level. That process could conclude in about a month or later.
Homrighausen has said he won’t comment. He has not attended a council meeting since the indictment.