Scioto County Candor
Monday afternoon, the Scioto County Candor reported that City Manager Derek Allen had resigned. Allen stated he would not comment further on the matter but that Council would be making a statement at the evening’s Council meeting. During the Council meeting, Portsmouth City Council gave a statement that was agreed upon by both Council and Allen. However, tensions increased throughout the meeting, making for a long and eventful Council session.
Council members began the meeting with an executive session that lasted until 7:30 p.m. When they returned, several items were added to the Council agenda as a result of Allen’s resignation. These items included the appropriation and transfer of funds not to exceed $80,000 for a settlement agreement and full and final release of Allen and a resolution to appoint Sam Sutherland as acting City Manager at a salary of $105,000 per year. The three readings rule was waved on the appropriation, and both items were passed.
After releasing Allen from his contract, City Clerk Diana Ratliff read the prepared statement that had been agreed upon by both Council and Allen.
“The City Council and the City Manager have been attempting to address concerns raised by employees and citizens of the City of Portsmouth,” the statement began. “Council has a duty to take any and all allegations seriously and investigate the same.”
The statement went on by saying that Council’s allegations that Allen had physically struck an employee “were not accurate.”
“During the process, it became clear that the relationship between the Council and City Manager deteriorated to the point where continued employment would be unenterable,” the statement continued. “The Council and the City Manager have determined that it is in the best interest of the City to move forward and have entered into an agreement resolving their differences. Effective immediately, Derek Allen has tendered his resignation as City Manager.”
The statement concluded with Council wishing Allen well and acknowledging the advancements of the City during his employment, and with Allen stating he does not believe the dispute constitutes a recall.
Portsmouth resident who recently took out recall petitions against Kalb, Zack Simms stood before Council and explained that he planned to move forward with his recall efforts and that said efforts are less about Allen and more about the behavior Simms has seen exhibited by Kalb.
“The reason I’m doing what I’m doing is that I believe that leadership in any capacity, within the City, within business, within your household, is framed on trust and integrity,” Simms stated. “I believe that I have seen a lack of that, a very large lack of that.”
Simms stated that members of the current Council have shown that they can make decisions on “a whim” and even break the law. He further stated that members of Council refuse to listen to their electorate.
“I have no personal means to gain, and I have no person beef with anyone on this Council. I have just seen the City I love threatened by a lack of integrity,” Simms concluded.
He shared similar sentiments with the Scioto County Candor earlier in the day, stating that he has seen his councilman exhibit behaviors unbecoming of a councilman by insulting and disrespecting other individuals in public settings.
Several other citizens and business owners within the City responded, including Sharon Bender who has attended Council meetings for several years.
“I just wonder, if there’s going to be a search for a City Manager, how do you expect to get a qualified, decent person to come in,” Bender stated to Council. “We’ve recalled two mayors, fired a City Manager and several council members have been recalled in the past 15 years. Who would want to come here? We had someone who came here and tried to do good things. You picked and picked and picked at him, and now he’s gone. So how are you going to get somebody else to come into our town? It was hard enough to get somebody the first time. I just think it is a tragedy.”
Bender concluded by expressing her disappointment in the City and concern for its future. She was followed by other citizens who expressed a fear for the future of Portsmouth because of the recent actions taken by the City.
Finally, City resident, attorney and member of the Friends of Portsmouth Matt Seifert addressed Council.
Seifert began by saying that he heard the City is paying Allen $15,000 in order to keep him from suing the City for defamation.
Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Portsmouth and despite numerous interruptions by Council members, Seifert continued
“While this may be a dark day for Portsmouth, it is just a passing cloud,” he declared. “Our future is bright. Will things be the way they used to be? No. But, they will be different, and they will probably be better. I see a future where Scioto County is strong and vibrant, and Portsmouth will be the jewel in that shining crown.”
Seifert spoke on new resources and developments coming to the area, developments in everything from business to recreation.
“We will do it with you or without you,” he stated to Council. “Sure, it would be easier with you, but we will manage either way because the people in this area are strong, they’re resilient, and they’re tired of being held back — by flood waters or by drug epidemics or by incompetent public servants.”
He explained that the Friends of Portsmouth is not a political group by nature but is interested in public concerns and working towards various public efforts from organizing recalls to cleanup efforts to those impacted by flood waters.
“Please understand this, your days of being able to do whatever you want without anyone paying attention are over,” Seifert said as he stressed to Council that the people in the City are now “engaged and united.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Kalb ended talk of recall within his ward by announcing his resignation.
“Tonight our Council meeting was once again full of concerned citizens, as it has been for the last couple of months,” he began. “Most of you are here to show your support for an employee that your elected council members hired. Tonight there was an agreement signed between former City Manager Derek Allen and City Council to part ways. I’m sure that there are a lot of questions that you all would like answered. Some of the more important ones that you should ask are: Why couldn’t this agreement be reached in mediation? Why was there never a public hearing scheduled? Remember, I told many of you that there wouldn’t be a public hearing. Why would the City Solicitor choose to represent a City employee rather than the elected legislative body? Why did the former City Manager change his mind about clearing his name as his number one priority as he stated in the meeting at the high school? Why would you believe the propaganda of an internet forum written by people who don’t know and probably a lot of don’t live in the City?”
Kalb questioned why citizens who have known him the 20 years he has been on Council would support Allen. He urged citizens to question if he had ever lied or cheated anyone, a comment which sparked a chuckle from the crowd and an outburst from Kalb’s wife defending her husband.
Kalb explained that his wife was the one person who had always been by his side.
“Allison (Kalb’s wife) has always supported me, defended me, consoled me and she has always loved me. So, tonight, right here, right now, this is for you Allison. I quit,” Kalb concluded with a mic drop.
Kalb’s wife reacted with cheers but then apologized for the outburst, explaining that hearing people say negative things about her husband had been extremely difficult.
Solicitor John Haas responded to Kalb’s question regarding his representation of Allen instead of Council.
“I thought the answer to that was pretty clear,” Haas stated. “The City Council took actions outside of a noticed open meeting via emails and then conducted themselves in violation of the charter without seeking legal advice prior to their actions.”
Haas then made a statement in reference to a visit from Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis.
Davis had visited Council along with Access Scioto County (ASC) representative Larry Mullins in order to ask the City for $80,000 to help continue to ASC program after the program lost funding from the state. ASC was $120,000 short in their operating budget for 2018. With the contribution from the City and a contribution from the County, the program will be funded for the remainder of the year. The County is still looking at funding options for the future of the program, Davis explained to Council. Both members of Council and Davis praised the fact that the City and the County were working together. In response to his presence, Haas raised a question for Davis.
“The second thing that I wanted to point out tonight is Commissioner Davis was here earlier. It looks like he left; however, I wish he would’ve stayed because I would like to know why he hasn’t paid the $136,000 in sewer fees that the county has collected but has not paid over to the City,” Haas stated.
He added that the sewer fund is the fund that has remained in deficit, resulting in repeated increases in sewer fees. However, Haas stated that the County paying their sewer bill will contribute to reducing that deficit.
Aside from resignations and talks of recall, Council did take several other actions during the meeting. They passed the ordinance granting funds to ASC; passed an ordinance authorizing the transfer of $15,028 from the general fund to the compensated absences fund; tabled an ordinance (at the request of Portsmouth Connex) that would authorize the City Manager to enter into an agreement with Connex for developments at Mound Park; gave second reading to an ordinance authorizing the City Manager to enter into a 25-year easement agreement with the State of Ohio of Real-Estate and Planning, representing Shawnee State University; gave second reading to an ordinance authorizing the vacation of the alley between Third Street and Farney Avenue, which was requested by Steve Falls and Mike Stapleton on behalf of Sciotoville Christian Church; gave second reading on an ordinance authorizing the transfer of $21,739 from the general fund to the municipal court subsidy fund; passed an ordinance authorizing advertisement of bids and contracting the best bidder for supplies and materials; passed an ordinance authorizing the appropriation of up to $449,218.60 for the 2017 street paving project; and passed a resolution authorizing the City to take part in the Appalachian Regional Commission Grant Program.
Also, before adjourning, Portsmouth Police Chief Rob Ware took a moment to thank police, fire, service workers, National Guard and volunteers who helped to put up the floodwalls during the Flood of 2018.