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Judge offers insight into Dover interim mayor search

| May 16, 2022
Judge Adam Wilgus swears in Shane Gunnoe as interim mayor of Dover Friday morning. (photo courtesy of the Tuscarawas County Juvenile/Probate Court)

DOVER (WJER) (May 16, 2022) – Tuscarawas County Probate Court Judge Adam Wilgus is offering some more details on how he chose former City Council President Shane Gunnoe as Dover’s interim mayor.

Some believed Gunnoe would be handed the job after the state suspended Mayor Richard Homrighausen.

Councilman Bob Mueller, who also applied for the interim post, said that was his understanding.

“When this first started, [Dover Law Director] Doug O’Meara informed us that Shane would move up into the mayor’s seat until the next election,” Mueller said.

­­­Wilgus says if Homrighausen had been removed from office, Gunnoe would temporarily take over. With a suspension, it’s different.

“In a very particular situation of the suspension of a mayor, then the authority lies with the Probate Court Judge,” Wilgus said. “That is why it was my responsibility to choose the interim mayor pursuant to Ohio law and for no other reason.”

Wilgus says after consulting with other judges statewide, he chose to open the search to all Dover residents and create a six-member committee to narrow the applicants to two. Wilgus says he knew four of the six committee members and reached out to two others.

“I believe that … they have the respect of the residents of the city of Dover,” he said. “I felt it was a good committee. I was really proud and happy that they were willing to serve the Dover community.”

At the time, Wilgus said he wouldn’t talk about the committee until after they made their choice. Local media eventually obtained their names through public record requests.

Wilgus says he wanted to keep the procedure behind the scenes as much as possible to protect committee members from outside influence.

“I feel that in hindsight everybody in Dover should be able to look back and know that this was a fair process,” he said.

Wilgus says the committee’s final two candidates were Gunnoe and Colby Byrom, who retired in 2011 as deputy treasurer of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District after 13 years. Wilgus called Gunnoe the most qualified applicant, and swore him in Friday.

Homrighausen has a criminal trial scheduled for Sept. 20. State investigators have accused him of pocketing wedding fees and using his position to give his son a city job.

Homrighausen has pleaded not guilty. Depending on the verdict, he will either be removed from office or reinstated.

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