(DOVER) (WJER) (February 9, 2022) – City Council President Shane Gunnoe is confident three employees fired by the mayor in December will return to their positions in about a month, and the mayor can’t stop it.
Council Tuesday unanimously approved a settlement with Dave Douglas, Gerry Mroczkowski and Eva Newsome that gives them back their jobs and back pay and benefits from when Mayor Richard Homrighausen fired them Dec. 21.
Gunnoe says Council members, Dover Law Director Doug O’Meara and the employees agree Homrighausen fired them illegally as retaliation, so it didn’t take long to reach a settlement.
“Ohio laws are clear,” Gunnoe said. “You can’t terminate employees for filing a complaint about something that they reasonably believe to be a crime.”
Language in the settlement says the mayor can’t fire the employees again or interfere with their employment until Dec. 31, 2023, which is the last day of Homrighausen’s current term. If he does, the employees would still be paid as if they worked for the city.
“Our attorney looked at this very closely,” Gunnoe said. “Their attorney looked at it as well, and they also had a tentative hearing before an administrative law judge in Columbus. All three of them were of the same mind that, if we’re all in agreement on the facts, they feel very strongly this is going to hold up.”
The three employees had filed appeals of the mayor’s terminations with the State Personnel Board of Review. Through the settlement, they agree to dismiss those appeals and any other claims against the city. It could still take a few weeks to wrap up those proceedings.
Gunnoe says defending the city would have been costly. He says Homrighausen said something similar last year about legislation involving Dover Chemical.
“I’m reading from his veto message: ‘It invites more and expensive litigation and costs to the city and possible personal exposure to some individuals.’ Those were his words when he decided to veto that piece of legislation,” Gunnoe said. “This is exactly what this settlement is trying to prevent.”
Homrighausen did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Gunnoe says the mayor went to the Dover boys’ basketball game instead.
Homrighausen can veto the settlement agreement, but that would only delay it until Council overrides the veto.
Councilman Justin Perkowski says the settlement should be encouraging for other city employees.
“I think it sends a message to current employees that are working 40, 50, 60 hours a week that they don’t have to fear for retaliation or losing their jobs,” Perkowski said.