DOVER (WJER) (February 15, 2023) – The city’s new mayor wants to revisit the investigation that led to his predecessor’s downfall.
Mayor Shane Gunnoe says the findings from the 2021 investigation into Richard Homrighausen’s administration can help Dover prevent corruption and create a better working environment. He says the city needs legislation that encourages employees to report potentially illegal activity and protects them from retaliation from their superiors.
Council members and administrators will begin brainstorming ways to put the investigation’s findings into action at a Feb. 20 meeting. Possibilities include an independent human resources director who doesn’t answer to the mayor, local whistleblower protection ordinances, and mandatory ethics training.
“I would expect there would be some pretty significant pieces of legislation,” he said.
The city spent $14,000 for an outside legal firm to conduct the Council-initiated investigation. The result was a 400-plus-page report filled with records, old emails, and sworn testimony from city officials that included allegations of unlawful behavior by Homrighausen. It’s online here: https://www.doverohio.com/media/Temp/Resolution%203-21%20Investigation%20Findings%20Report.pdf
It was the catalyst that ultimately led to Homrighausen’s criminal conviction and disqualification from public office for theft in office and related charges.
Homrighausen fired three employees who provided particularly damning testimony. Gunnoe and other officials say that was in retaliation.
Council reinstated those employees a few months later. Homrighausen had been trying to block their reinstatement in court, but a judge recently ruled he can’t do that anymore now that he’s out of office.
Gunnoe says he wants the city to have whistle-blower protection in the books to better shield workers from retaliation.
“The state has provisions under the law that protects those employees, but we’ve seen, obviously, that can be a long battle,” he said.