City paid $43K to former city administrator; updates on related city matters


By Tom Barr - [email protected]



Documents online

Former city administrator Greg Muenchen’s resignation letter and severance agreement are online at wnewsj.com.

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington paid over $43,000 to its former city administrator in the wake of his resignation after three months in that post and, prior to that, serving about two-and-a-half years as the city’s HR manager.

Greg Muenchen resigned as city administrator effective August 3, although Mayor John Stanforth announced then-current HR Manager Brad Reynolds as the new interim city administrator effective July 26.

On August 30, the News Journal emailed to the city a public records request for documents relating to Muenchen’s resignation and compensation paid upon that resignation.

The following day, the News Journal received an emailed reply from an attorney in New Albany, Ohio — David C. Moser of Fishel Downey Albrecht Riepenhoff — stating, “I serve as outside counsel for the City of Wilmington and have been asked to assist in preparing the City’s response to your August 30, 2022, public records request…” and to “…please kindly direct any further questions on this request to my attention.”

(The News Journal on Monday, Sept. 12 filed another public records request with the city and copying Moser, asking why an outside counsel is being utilized to fulfill records requests and how much hourly/total the attorney’s firm is being paid by the city.)

The News Journal’s public records request of August 30 was fulfilled by the city via an email from the attorney’s office on Sept. 13.

In the provided copy of the resignation letter, Muenchen stated, “I feel I have been held back and prevented from achieving my full potential, and my hard work and vision for the city have been disregarded without consideration or conversation. Recently, situations have been handled inappropriately and unprofessionally, making me very uncomfortable. There are significant challenges within the workplace culture toward the City Administrator position, which I believe were created by my predecessor’s behavior and treatment of City staff for many years.”

The “Settlement Agreement” dated August 11 and signed by Muenchen and by the mayor states that, “The parties agree that Muenchen will be paid a total amount of $43,686.67, which consists of the following individual severance-related payments: (A) $21,480.00, which shall be considered a severance payment for 480 hours of compensable time; (B) an amount of $16,83.54, which shall be payment for 241.90 hours unused sick time and 144.314 hours unused vacation; and (C) an amount of $5,371.13 for Muenchen to use to pay for COBRA” [the continuation of group plan health insurance coverage], “or related fees following separation from employment.”

Back story

On April 25, the News Journal had received an email from then-HR manager Muenchen stating, “Beginning today, I will serve as City Administrator while Marian Miller is on leave” and he effectively became full-time city administrator.

Miller had submitted her resignation to the mayor on April 20.

At the May 5 meeting of city council, Brad Reynolds was announced as the city’s new HR manager (taking over Muenchen’s previous HR duties) after having recently retired as administrator of Ohio Living Cape May.

The mayor asked Miller to reconsider her resignation and she was placed on paid leave, but later her resignation was accepted with an effective date of May 31, with the mayor stating that Miller “will continue operating as a valued member of my administration and work to transition administrative leadership” during May.

Miller was allegedly paid approximately $17,000 upon leaving the city, according to the same public official who first informed the News Journal — prior to any public records requests — that “$44,000” had been paid to Muenchen and who also said he/she had seen the paperwork of the payments to each.

Two elected officials familiar with such payment processes recently told the News Journal that “normal” and “expected” channels were not utilized in the authorizing and making of these payments.

Future duties

At city council’s Sept. 1 meeting, council held the first reading of an ordinance eliminating the city administrator position and moving Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker to the mayor’s office and taking on the duties of the city administrator position, and the title of city administrator would be eliminated.

Shidaker would still be the Safety/Service Director. The ordinance would also create a Deputy Service Director to help with what are his current day-to-day duties.

Shidaker would become the fourth person to handle city administrator duties in about a five-month period.

WPD case

Also in the August 30 public records request, the News Journal requested an update on the investigation of Wilmington Police Department officers Det. Scott Baker and Officer Elliott Sylvester.

Baker has been declared by Warren County and its prosecutor a “Brady officer” — essentially, an officer which may have a history of credibility issues and is not allowed to testify for the prosecution — due to “an investigation into recent events regarding the Greater Warren County Drug Task Force and into recent allegations in the City of Wilmington regarding evidence handling”, according to a letter to Baker dated May 11, 2022 and provided by the city upon a records request for information from Baker’s personnel file.

The News Journal also learned recently that Baker may be considered a Brady officer by Clinton County.

The News Journal continues to await information on this records request.

The News Journal reported May 11 that the City of Wilmington announced Wilmington Police Department Detective Scott Baker and Patrol Officer Elliott Sylvester were placed on paid administrative leave. “The city is in the process of identifying an external investigator for this matter,” stated then-City Administrator Muenchen in a news release.

Several weeks ago the News Journal was told by a city official that the investigation was nearly complete with the information to follow within a day or two. But several days passed and the News Journal was told by the city that new information had been obtained and the investigation was continuing.

Earlier investigation

Earlier this year, on January 10, 2022, Clemans Nelson & Associates “Consultants To Management” submitted a report to the city regarding the firm’s investigation into a sexual harassment complaint filed in 2021 by a WPD officer.

The complaint came after an alleged 2021 incident in which Baker was with other officers serving a warrant and Baker allegedly commented that the officers “owe him” for calling him there and “states he ‘wants both’ of their wives, whom he mentions by name, ‘at the same time’” according to the report. Earlier that same day, “Baker had texted [the officer’s] fiance “seeking permission to post a photograph of her” [posing for a calendar] “in the department as a joke on [the officer].”

Baker apologized to the officer and “no further inappropriate comments” were made by Baker nor had the woman “received additional texts about her calendar photograph.”

Under “Recommendations”, the report states, “After interviewing all parties reviewing the provided documentation, it is apparent that the complaint falls more under inappropriate conduct, indecent language or disrespectful treatment of a member, not sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. Although, the facts appear not to arise to the level of an unlawful hostile work environment, it does not excuse inappropriate behavior. The behavior in question was quickly addressed by the Chief and handled appropriately in the determination of this Consultant based on the progressive discipline procedures. As a result, the Consultant does not recommend any additional discipline for Baker.”

Leadership

In 2019 longtime WPD officer Sgt. Ron Cravens was named police chief and served in that capacity over three years until retiring effective April 22, 2022, with WPD Sgt. Neil Rager then serving as interim chief.

Longtime WPD officer Sgt. Ron Fithen was sworn in as police chief on July 7.

https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/09/M-Muenchen_Resignation-and-Settlement.pdf

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By Tom Barr

[email protected]

Documents online

Former city administrator Greg Muenchen’s resignation letter and severance agreement are online at wnewsj.com.