Waynesfield investigations

WAYNESFIELD — At Thursday's regular village council meeting, Waynesfield Mayor Mike Ridenour announced a third party will be conducting an investigation of two separate issues involving two council members and the mayor himself.

The investigation was spurred by a letter addressed to the mayor from Councilman Rich Libby regarding the manner in which executive session was called at the July 23 special meeting, as well as allegations of a hostile work environment for village employees created by Councilmen Dick Hardin and Bill Motter.

In his letter, Libby expressed "serious reservations regarding the validity" of the executive session that was called at the special meeting. According to Libby, there were no other details given by council members as to why the executive session was called except for "personnel matters."

"I don't think personnel is a justification for council to do a run around the system and the mayor," Libby said Thursday as he addressed council.

Libby also took exception to the fact that the mayor was ejected from the executive session in question, saying he had not heard "any valid reasons as to why the mayor should have been ejected."
Under the Ohio Revised Code, Libby said, there has to be a legitimate reason for executive session to be called.

"Personnel is not a legitimate reason," he said. "I looked it up."

Hardin disagreed with Libby, saying council received legal advice from Village Solicitor Bob Fitzgerald saying it was OK to proceed with executive session.

Although Libby's letter was addressed to Ridenour, the mayor said he would not personally investigate this issue due to a conflict of interest.

"I've determined it's best for myself and the community to have an unbiased person doing this," Ridenour said.

An investigator has not yet been named, although Ridenour said he and Attorney at Law Mark Van Dyne of Baran, Piper, Tarkowsky & Fitzgerald Co. spoke about possible attorneys or law firms that could conduct the investigation.

Before a third party investigator is named, council must first vote in favor of paying outside legal counsel.
In the case involving allegations of a hostile work environment for village employees, another conflict of interest is created because both Motter and Hardin would typically need to cast a vote on the matter as part of their duty as elected officials.

Van Dyne suggested the councilors involved should abstain from the vote.