Whitehouse Mayor Resigns Following News Of Investigation

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Don Atkinson was informed on August 16 that Whitehouse Village Council voted to place him under investigation, he submitted his two-sentence, handwritten resignation the next morning.

“After serious consideration, I am hereby tendering my resignation as the mayor of Whitehouse. Serving the Village of Whitehouse has been one of the highlights of my life,” the letter stated.

Village solicitor Kevin Heban confirmed that council voted unanimously during an August 15 executive session to go forward with an investigation of Atkinson, but Heban declined to share the nature of that investigation. An August 14 letter of agreement shows that Spengler Nathanson attorney James Silk Jr. will be paid $275 per hour for his services. Silk joined council during the executive session.

Following the mayor’s resignation, council president Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer assumed the duties of the mayor, per the village charter, Heban said. She has been on council since January 2016 and has served as council president since January 2022.

“My immediate goal is to support staff and council to ensure as smooth a transition as possible so that operations continue seamlessly and Whitehouse thrives,” she said. “Every one of them has risen to the challenge in the most impressive way.”

Atkinson said his reason for turning in his resignation was to end the investigation and save the village money at a time it’s already suffering from financial woes. The village currently has on the November ballot a .5-percent income tax increase to meet increased costs and mandates that have impacted the General Fund.

“I believe that with our amazing employees and the support of the residents, we can continue to move the village forward in a positive direction,” Atkinson said. “Together we can continue to preserve and enhance this wonderful village.”

While Atkinson estimated the cost of the investigation at $200,000, Heban countered that it would be in the $15,000 range. 

The investigation is still active for now. Council is set to meet on Tuesday, September 5 at 6:30 p.m. in an executive session to discuss personnel, Conklin Kleiboemer said.

Atkinson, a retired captain with the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, joined Whitehouse Village Council in January 2012 after serving 20 years on the Anthony Wayne Board of Education. He was elected mayor in November 2015 and again in November 2019. While he was certified to appear on the ballot for a third term, Atkinson said he planned to ask the Lucas County Board of Elections on August 23 to withdraw his name. 

Since his resignation, council member Richard Bingham and Conklin Kleiboemer have pulled petitions to run for mayor.

“I decided to run for mayor of Whitehouse to ensure the citizens had a choice in who they wanted to elect as their next mayor,” Bingham said. “Having served on council for the past five and a half years, I have an understanding of the issues that are important to our citizens as well as the operations of the village. 

“I would like to see the village grow responsibly, continue to be a destination people want to live, work and play in, and to collaborate with citizens to find solutions to the current financial challenges facing the village,” he added.

Conklin Kleiboemer, who collected signatures to run for a third term on council, instead decided to withdraw that petition and pull a new petition to run for the office of mayor.

“Whitehouse is at a critical juncture in its growth and is a shining example of modern municipal government on the local level,” she said. “For eight years, I have been contributing to this vision as well as leading parts of it, and I am fully prepared to hit the ground running on all of our projects and intergovernmental engagements. I am 100-percent committed to this community.”

Both Bingham and Conklin Kleiboemer said they didn’t plan to run for mayor until learning that Atkinson had resigned and might not be running – leaving no other candidates on the ballot. 

Council member Louann Artiaga planned to run for mayor, but her petitions were ruled invalid during a June 6 board of elections meeting due to a missing signature. By law, she is not permitted to turn in petitions for the same position within a year.

Both Bingham and Conklin Kleiboemer agreed to run a fair and positive campaign.

“We both agree that it is important to give voters a choice, including any other candidates who may be interested,” Conklin Kleiboemer said. “Whatever happens from here on out, Whitehouse needs to be the one benefiting.”

The deadline for council and mayoral candidates to turn in petitions is Friday, September 1 at 4:00 p.m.

So far, six people have indicated plans to run for the three, four-year-term council seats currently held by Conklin Kleiboemer, Mindy Curry and Bob Keogh. Jennifer Bingham and Keogh have turned in their petitions. Jennifer Bingham is the wife of Richard Bingham. Carrie Touhy is certified to appear on the ballot. Tony Fronk, Dave Riggenbach and Jan Schultz have pulled petitions to run. In addition, Steve Connelly is running to fill the remainder of the unexpired term he was appointed to in January, following the resignation of Dennis Recker.

If more than seven candidates are certified to run for the three, full-term seats or more than two candidates are certified to run for the mayor’s position, a primary will be required, said Lucas County Board of Elections deputy director Tim Monaco. The usual cost of a primary is about $1.75 to $2.00 per voter, but because of the unusual Tuesday, October 10 primary – a different date from all other municipal primaries – the cost might be higher. He roughly estimated from $7,000 to $13,000. 

Additionally, some voters currently use Anthony Wayne High School as a polling location, so a primary could cause logistical problems as school will be in session.

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