BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — In a tense, two-hour council meeting on January 7, Maumee Mayor Richard Carr temporarily passed leadership to council president Tim Pauken, who announced that a vote on whether to fire city administrator John Jezak would be postponed.
Carr stepped aside in his duties as mayor relative to that particular issue because he is named in an ethics investigation complaint that began last summer and has resulted in a request from Pauken among others to remove Jezak from office.
Council was expected to vote on the call for Jezak’s termination. Instead, Pauken said that Jezak had been placed on paid administrative leave that afternoon, pending further investigation.
Pauken will ask Spengler Nathanson Law – the outside firm that provides insurance services to the city – to review the situation. According to Pauken, that action is needed because Maumee Law Director Beth Tischler has advised him that she does not have the scope of knowledge necessary to provide a full and complete legal opinion relative to Jezak’s potential termination. Pauken, however, did not make a motion during the meeting to vote on the issue to hire the outside firm.
Jezak, who had remained relatively silent on the matter, issued a 20-minute statement at the conclusion of the meeting, blasting some city officials for “blatantly inappropriate behavior.”
In the meantime, council will continue sorting out the fallout from an ethics complaint involving several items, including the promotion of Susan Noble to the position of human resources commissioner, the sale of public property to Mon-nette’s, the upkeep of the East Mews parking lot and a reduction of hours of two city employees. While Squire, Boggs and Patton – the outside law firm tasked with conducting the investigation – had completed their work, council voted on Monday to continue looking into the complaint by sending it to the appropriate state agencies.
Council also approved paying the firm $90,267 in legal fees for completing the review. Council members Dave Kissinger, Tom Wag-ener, John Boellner and Brent Buehrer voted in favor of that action while council members Scott Noonan, Tim Pauken and Tracey Elmore voted against it.
Council members Boell-ner, Kissinger, Wagener and Noonan also voted in favor of sending the complaint to the state. All four approved sending to the Ohio Auditor’s Office matters involving the promotion and pay provided to the human resources commissioner and the continued maintenance of the East Mews parking lot. They also voted to send to the Ohio Ethics Commission the matter involving possible conflict of interest related to Mayor Carr and council member Buehrer’s involvement with the sale of the city-owned property in the 200 block of Conant Street.
Council members Elmore and Pauken opposed that action and Buehrer abstained from voting on the issue.
Elmore believes the issues in question could have been reasonably addressed in-house with little or no cost to the city.
“The collateral damage to good people and their reputation with the release of the complaint was apparently not enough,” she said. “No matter what or who you believe, the innocent victim in this has been the trust of the people and it must be restored and sending this to the public ethics commission is not the way to do it.”
Mayor Carr agreed, and said that the only reason the complaint is being forwarded to the state is because those against him are looking for a different outcome.
“You hired a law firm, you spent $90,000, you didn’t get the findings that you want and it should end. To send it down (to state officials) is just trying to get a do-over and I think you are wrong.”
He also took issue with Jezak’s handling of information regarding the cost of the Squire investigation. Accord-ing to Carr, Jezak knew that the investigation would likely cost $100,000. In addition, the law firm prepared an ordinance that did not have estimated costs included in the legislation; however, in the ordinance that Maumee City Council ultimately passed, a paragraph was added that stipulated the city would appropriate $50,000 for the study.
Carr claims it was Jezak who added that paragraph.
“He had no business making changes and then not telling anybody. This was to cover up the fact that he knew this was going to be more than $50,000. He knew from the very beginning that it was going to exceed $100,000,” he said.
In a prepared statement, Jezak defended the actions surrounding the complaint, which he says would not have happened if Carr, Buehrer, Noble and Finance Director Deb Cartledge had acted in a manner consistent with Ohio ethics.
“There’s one big question surrounding the path to the Squire-Patton-Boggs compliance review authorized by council on August 19 – why was it necessary to spend $90,000 to conduct this investigation in the first place? In short, it is for a lack of disclosure required and expected of public officials,” said Jezak.
He believes that the Maumee community is owed answers and that the work conducted by Squire is incomplete.
“At this point, we could go back and forth as to whether there were violations of law; however, that won’t solve anything unless these questions are tested by governmental regulatory agencies,” said Jezak. “Mayor Carr believes that it is more important to discipline those who call attention to questionable behavior as opposed to those who commit and abet it. Let us let Ohio’s regulatory agencies tell us who is right,” he stated.