Hillsboro employee relations committee meeting called, but purpose seems unclear


A meeting of Hillsboro City Council’s employee relations committee has been called for Tuesday, with the official notice from committee chair Bill Alexander saying the meeting is to discuss “employee complaints.”

But Alexander told The Times-Gazette on Thursday that “employee complaints” is not the primary purpose of the meeting. He said he called the meeting in response to discussion between council members regarding comments from the public at the Sept. 11 council meeting and previous council meetings, mostly centering around comments from Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings on social media that the wife of a city employee who is involved in a dispute with the city called racist, as well as criticism of council for not taking action on the matter.

“There’s been some discussion among council members concerning the issues that were brought up at those meetings, and we’re going to have an opportunity to discuss that as a committee and consider what would be appropriate,” said Alexander.

Alexander said there may be discussion regarding possible council actions in response to Hastings’ comments.

Council president Lee Koogler, who did not attend Monday’s council meeting, said it’s his understanding that the meeting was called after council members expressed a desire to communicate further about the topics brought up Monday night.

Hastings told The Times-Gazette he didn’t want to comment on the matter, other than saying he has asked the city’s outside employee relations legal counsel to speak to council members regarding the committee meeting.

Contacted Thursday for comment, Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery declined to comment.

The decision to hold a public committee meeting to discuss employee complaints or disciplinary action seems at odds with confidentiality laws and employee rights under Ohio law, whether for a city employee or an elected official. Typically, such discussions are held in executive session, with any formal action then occurring in open session. But the notice for Tuesday’s meeting does not indicate an executive session, which is required as part of the notice for a committee meeting.

Although the public notice of the meeting states the committee will discuss “employee complaints,” Alexander said he does not intend for discussion to circulate around Craig Jackson, the city employee who spoke to council on Monday expressing concerns about the way the city has been handling his employment.

“This is not concerning Craig Jackson specifically,” Alexander told The Times-Gazette. “This is not any specific issue in the city, not any specific employee or department. This will be more in relation to general issues rather than a specific person or department… If something does come up on that, that’s not the intention.”

Jackson voiced concerns on Monday regarding his employment and letters sent to him by Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie about scheduling appointments for a medical assessment.

He said he received two letters from the city administration in previous weeks asked him to bring his medical records to a medical assessment on one of four dates, including Sept. 20. Jackson said he told city administrator Debbie Sansone that he wanted to go Sept. 20.

After that, however, Jackson said he received a third letter from McKenzie which was delivered to his home by a police officer, demanding that he visit the doctor on Sept. 6 or he would “be punished and you could be fired if you don’t go,” as Jackson described the letter. Jackson said he received the letter on Friday, Sept. 1, and said he wouldn’t have been able to compile his medical records in time.

McKenzie said the city’s legal counsel recommended the administration ask Jackson to be assessed earlier for financial reasons, and said Jackson didn’t have to bring all his medical records to the Sept. 6 appointment.

After some discussion, McKenzie said the original doctor refused service due to the conflict, and McKenzie said the city would notify Jackson when a new doctor is found.

Jackson’s comments came after his wife, Ariana Jackson, criticized Hastings for his social media comments, and council members for not taking action or speaking up on the matter. She referenced a tweet Hastings sent after the Charlottesville, Va., clash involving white supremacists and counterprotesters, in which Hastings said he preferred the term “white enthusiast.” Hastings later deleted the tweet.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the fire station at 204 N. East St.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.

Hillsboro City Council member Bill Alexander, right, is shown talking with council member Justin Harsha at a previous council meeting.
http://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2017/09/web1_council-harsha-alexander-cmyk-4.jpgHillsboro City Council member Bill Alexander, right, is shown talking with council member Justin Harsha at a previous council meeting.
‘Employee complaints’ listed, but Hastings seems to be topic

By David Wright

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