Investigation report into Dover mayor depicts 'gradual and growing concern'

Investigation report into Dover mayor depicts 'gradual and growing concern'
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Mayor Richard Homrighausen

Investigation report into Dover mayor depicts 'gradual and growing concern'
Lori Feeney

The full report of the investigation into personnel issues in the City of Dover contains hundreds of pages of documentation. The report can be accessed online by the public at www.doverohio.com/report321.

                        

An investigation begun earlier this year focusing on Dover Mayor Rick Homrighausen’s physical and mental ability to perform his duties has grown to include eight “areas of concern.”

The report, compiled by Ulmer & Berne, city council’s outside legal counsel, was released to the public by Dover Council during a special meeting on May 5, 2021, accompanied by a summary written by Shane Gunnoe, council president. Gunnoe said the report shows a “gradual and growing concern” over the past year regarding the mayor’s ability to govern.

“We started off looking in one area, and as we interviewed employees, the list of concerns seemed to grow exponentially,” Gunnoe said. “When you take them in their totality, all eight of them, to me it’s shocking. It’s almost overwhelming.”

In its final form, the report contains hundreds of pages of affidavits along with key documents including state statutes, city ordinances, city policies and programs, receipts, and emails pertinent to the investigation.

Due to its size, the report is accessible online for members of the public at www.doverohio.com/report321.

The mayor did not attend the meeting either in person or via Zoom.

The eight areas of concern

Gunnoe said each of the areas should be worrisome to anyone who lives in Dover. Taken together, he said it became apparent to council that city administration is not functioning properly under Homrighausen.

The allegations outlined here are supported with documentation in the full report.

“Neglect of the responsibilities under the control of the mayor”

The report said Homrighausen was largely unavailable during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also said the mayor came to his office with “less and less frequency” even prior to the pandemic and is not “rarely or infrequently” showing up.

As a result of the mayor’s lack of involvement in areas such as labor negotiations, salary scales, and raises and other failures, city employees “have been forced to bypass the mayor’s review completely” in some cases. The report said the mayor was unable to be located when signatures were required on time-sensitive documents and grant applications and said Homrighausen backdated his signature on legislation he failed to respond to in a timely manner.

“Delegation of authority to noncity personnel”

According to the report, Homrighausen “may have improperly delegated managing and responding to emails to noncity employees. This improper delegation compromises the city’s ability to maintain confidentiality or protect sensitive information.”

The mayor’s wife, Linda, and his son, Nick, are two parties the report said are possibly using the email to make requests and to instruct city employees on city business.

The report said the mayor has officially identified his wife as his “designee” and has “empowered her to access a public building and public records without supervision.”

“Impeding the city council’s legislative investigation”

Mayor Homrighausen is accused of interfering in the investigation by issuing an administrative instruction to city employees that directed them not to answer any questions from city council, its legal representatives “or any other city official other than the mayor.”

The report also said the mayor has failed to comply with the city’s public record policy, intervening in and denying access to public records requested by city council members.

“Failure to enforce Dover’s Drug Free Workplace Policy”

This area of concern stems from an accident involving the mayor’s son, Peter, two years ago while working for the general services department. After running a vehicle into a pole, Peter reportedly told his supervisors he did not believe he could pass a drug test. A drug test was never ordered, and the mayor took no action, even though the incident was reported to the mayor by a supervisor.

“Potential nepotism law violations”

The report said the mayor was the final authority on hiring his son, Peter, constituting a violation of the Ohio Revised Code. The report said Homrighausen “participated directly in decisions that affected his son’s employment” by ruling on a grievance brought by his son and two other employees, condoning the decision not to drug test Peter after the accident and contacting his son’s direct supervisors regarding issues related to Peter’s employment.

“Potentially receiving improper compensation”

This charge relates to the mayor’s acceptance of personal compensation for weddings he performed in his capacity as mayor, often on city property. The report also said the mayor “uses his executive assistant and city resources for the administrative tasks associated with the weddings.”

Documentation provided in the report shows the mayor officiated more than 240 weddings between 2014 and 2021 and appears to have kept more than $6,000 in fees. City auditor Nicole Stoldt said no wedding fees were deposited in the general fund during those years.

“Failure to disclose compensation to ethics commission”

The report said the mayor neglected to disclose his compensation for performing weddings in his recent ethics commission filings. ORC Section 102.02 (A) requires elected officials to file a financial disclosure citing “every source of income” received in the person’s own name.

“Solicitation calls by city employees for mayoral campaign fundraising event”

According to the report, city employees were asked by the mayor to make phone calls on their own time soliciting sponsors for the annual golf outing held as a campaign fundraiser for Homrighausen.

The ORC prohibits city employees from making solicitation calls for partisan political campaigns. The investigating committee believes the mayor violated the code, even if the calls were made during nonbusiness hours.

Next steps

In a post-meeting conversation, Gunnoe said he expects council to propose legislation to try to resolve some of the issues uncovered by the investigation.

“But ultimately, the next steps are not legislative in nature,” Gunnoe said.

Gunnoe said council has taken things as far as they can. “The ultimate authority is the electors of the city of Dover, if they choose to do anything,” he said.

Gunnoe said it is within the power of the citizens of Dover to either petition the probate or common pleas court for removal of the mayor or to file a petition for a recall election.

Homrighausen has not responded to multiple attempts for comment throughout the investigation.


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