DOVER (WJER) (March 25, 2022) – Three city employees fired by the mayor in December were back at work Friday.
Dave Douglas, Gerry Mroczkowski and Eva Newsome returned to their jobs as service director, safety and human resources director, and executive assistant to the mayor after the state Personnel Board of Review accepted their settlement agreement with the city Wednesday.
Mayor Rick Homrighausen has been fighting the settlement, and still has a pending complaint in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court over it.
However, Law Director Doug O’Meara gave the employees the OK to return to their jobs based on the state review board’s decision.
“We have an order of an administrative agency that adopted the settlement agreement between the city of Dover and the employees which in effect ordered these people back to work,” O’Meara said. “Since the order allowed them to return to work, we thought it would be best if they returned to work in a timely and expeditious fashion.”
Homrighausen had an opportunity to comment after meeting with some city department heads Friday.
“I have no comment until this is settled in the court of law,” he said.
Other officials happy with decision
O’Meara says the board’s decision rights a wrong.
“The reason he fired these employees was retaliatory for these employees providing the statements they did under the Ohio whistleblower act…that implicated the mayor in conduct that was in violation of Ohio Revised Code,” O’Meara said. “Frankly, there’s zero evidence in opposition to that.”
O’Meara says he can’t predict what Homrighausen is going to do next.
“We’ll see if the mayor tries to interfere. I don’t have a clue one way or the other,” O’Meara said. “The rational thing is you would obey an administrative agency board order and not interfere with it. The irrational thing is you would. So far what I’ve seen is irrational behavior from the beginning of this to the present, so I can’t predict whether or not he’s going to act rationally or irrationally.”
City Council President Shane Gunnoe says he thinks residents will notice improvements in responses and communication at City Hall with the employees back at work.
“It’s a good day, not only for the employees but for the city as a whole that we can start to restore some normal functioning of government within the city,” he said.
“I’m glad that step has been taken and glad that things are once again moving in the right direction,” O’Meara said. “Hopefully we’re on the road toward a termination of this sad, sad period of time in Dover.”
Case likely not over
The three employees were at City Hall this morning but said they didn’t want to comment as the mayor could still appeal.
Homrighausen is already pursuing legal action against the city over the situation in a separate case. He’s seeking a temporary restraining order to block the settlement.
O’Meara informed the media Friday’s meeting with department heads was open to the public, but Homrighausen said it was not. The meeting was only about two minutes long.
Process for suspending mayor begins
The process for suspending Homrighausen has apparently begun at the state level.
Robert Smith is the special prosecutor overseeing the grand jury indictment against the mayor from the state auditor’s office. Homrighausen faces 15 criminal counts, eight of them felonies, including theft in office.
Smith in an email told O’Meara that he sent notice to the mayor on March 14 that he was seeking the mayor’s suspension from office until the felonies are resolved. O’Meara submitted the email as evidence in the state Personnel Board of Review case, and the agency provided it after a public records request.
O’Meara says the process could take 57 days. Homrighausen has an arraignment hearing scheduled for Wednesday.