Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings announced Tuesday that he has dismissed Todd Wilkin from his position as city safety and service director.
In a brief statement issued by the mayor’s office around noon Tuesday, Hastings said, “Effective November 22, 2016, Todd Wilkin is no longer employed in the capacity of Hillsboro Safety and Service Director. Hillsboro thanks him for his service to the city.”
Hastings later told The Times-Gazette that he gave Wilkin the option of resigning effective Dec. 31, with pay and benefits lasting through that date. He said Wilkin said he would not resign, leading the mayor to terminate him effective immediately.
Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Wilkin declined to comment.
The action comes after a breakdown in the relationship between Hastings and Wilkin that has been evident for several months, including issues that arose during a nearly year-long investigation and a trial earlier this month that resulted in the mayor being acquitted of felony charges.
Among those charges was one that accused Hastings of tampering with records in regard to a $500 refund he had received from a vacant property fee he had paid. The refund was authorized by a document containing Wilkin’s signature, but Wilkin said the signature was a stamp, and he had not authorized the payment.
That charge was dismissed by the special judge in the case before it reached the jury, with the judge ruling that the state had not proven that Hastings either tampered with the record or ordered someone else to do so.
Wilkin also testified at the trial that he had warned Hastings against using a city dumpster for personal debris, although an investigator said he could not find in his notes a mention of Wilkin saying he had that conversation with the mayor.
Two of the original four felony charges against Hastings were dismissed, and he was acquitted of the remaining two charges.
Hastings hired Wilkin in 2013 following the dismissal of Rick Giroux, the mayor’s first safety director, after Giroux was arrested on an impaired driving charge.
At a council meeting last week – the first since the mayor’s trial – council president Lee Koogler acknowledged the stress that the mayor has been under for the past year, and pledged his cooperation with the mayor going forward, encouraging council to do the same.
But in his report to council, Wilkin asked that several city ordinances be examined, most of them appearing to relate to Hastings, either through issues that arose during the trial or in regard to property owned by Hastings in the city. Wilkin told council, “I will not selectively enforce the law in Hillsboro.”
The safety and service director is an at-will position that serves at the will and pleasure of the mayor. The Ohio Revised Code, under section 733.04 entitled “General powers of mayors in cities,” states that the mayor “may appoint and remove the director of public service, the director of public safety, and the heads of the subdepartments of public service and public safety, and shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as are conferred and required by law.”
Fred Beery, the city law director, declined to comment about Wilkin’s dismissal. Lee Koogler, the council president, said Tuesday, “Overall, Mr. Wilkin was respected by council for his efforts as safety and service director. I hope Todd succeeds in whatever he does.”
Considering his role in the Hastings investigation and trial, Wilkin might try to avail himself to “whistleblower” protection laws. According to a government whistleblower protection website, whistleblower laws “contain whistleblower anti-retaliation provisions that generally provide that employers may not discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee because the employee has filed a complaint or exercised any rights provided to employees.”
The city of Hillsboro’s “Personnel Policies and Procedures” handbook specifically addresses whistleblower procedures. According to the provision, an appeal must be filed no more than 30 calendar days after dismissal. Asked Tuesday whether the dismissal was related to Wilkin’s actions in the investigation or trial, Hastings said it was not.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Wilkin was hired in March 2013. He had an extensive background in construction, building rehabilitation and project management, as well as experience with budgets, procurement, and employee management.
When he was hired by Hastings at an annual salary of $74,000, Wilkin was employed by the Model Group, a company that was instrumental in the revitalization of the Over-the-Rhine area in Cincinnati.
Wilkin served as the mayor’s point person on several infrastructure initiatives undertaken by the city, and also helped negotiate the contract with the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District after the city struck a deal with Paint Creek and disbanded Hillsboro Fire & Rescue. He was instrumental in securing a number of grants for various city projects.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.