MAUMEE (WTOL) - As Maumee prepares to meet Friday night in a bid to end monthslong drama surrounding an explosive ethics report that was released late last year, a Thursday meeting and a January email have raised fresh ethical questions about Mayor Richard Carr.
During a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, Carr presided over a vote on whether to provide documents to the Ohio Ethics Commission to aid a state examination of the report that was initiated by a Jan. 7 vote of council.
Council tied 3-3.
11 Investigates mistakenly reported Thursday that Carr voted against the release and broke the tie. He did not vote, but since the vote was tied, the documents were not released.
However, his presiding over the meeting surprised some members of council. Carr has recused himself from all discussion involving the initial report because he and Councilman Brent Buehrer were accused in the original report of acting unethically in the sale of city-owned land.
In Carr’s case, there were also questions about the rapid promotion of Human Resources Commissioner Susan Noble. The law firm Squire Patton Boggs found no obvious wrongdoing by Carr or the city.
During Thursday's meeting, Councilman David Kissinger said he wasn't even sure the meeting was legal.
"I believe that by presiding over a meeting where the matter before council is one in which Mayor Carr has a clear conflict of interest is a blatant and willful violation of Ohio ethics law," Kissinger told 11 Investigates.
He and Carr were involved in several heated exchanges during the meeting.
But another concern was uncovered by 11 Investigates after a monthlong public records battle to get emails related to the paid leave of City Administrator John Jezak, who is blamed by Carr for initiating last year’s ethics investigation and for deceiving council in getting the votes to support it.
Jezak was put on leave on Jan. 7 by Councilman Tim Pauken, who was serving as acting mayor since Carr recused himself from anything involving that investigation.
The fulfillment of the public records request revealed an email from Carr to Councilman Scott Noonan on Jan. 8, the day after Carr recused himself from any discussion of the report.
The email discussed a vote the previous night that sent the original ethics complaints to the Ohio Ethics Commission and to the Ohio Auditor’s Public Integrity Unit for further investigation. Noonan, John Boellner, David Kissinger, and Thomas Wagener, Jr., voted to forward the complaints to the state.
In the Jan. 8 email, Carr talked about the personal toll that the investigation has put on his family and how he believed Jezak had deceived council. (Part of the email was redacted because of attorney-client privilege.) Carr then asked Noonan to “make a Motion to Reconsider the referral made last night so that we can move forward without the city realizing more expense.”
That Motion to Reconsider the complaints that were sent to the Ethics Commission and the Auditor’s office is on the agenda for tonight’s special meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Motion to Reconsider, according to Boellner, can only be brought up by one of the four who voted in January to get the state involved - Boellner, Kissinger, Wagener, and Noonan. In Thursday’s meeting, the documents were withheld from the state because Noonan sided against the other three.
Paul Nick, the executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, cannot legally comment on an ongoing investigation, but he did say this about when a politician has a legal requirement to abstain from discussion on a topic: "If somebody has a clear conflict of interest on a matter that affects property or themselves or a family member, the law requires them to abstain," Nick told 11 Investigates Friday afternoon.
His comment about property could be used by Carr's opponents to hint at ethical wrongdoing in regards to the Thursday meeting and email. Two of the complaints in last year's report involved property owned by the city - in the 200 block of Conant Street and the East Mews parking lot. The Conant property is adjacent to St. Paul's Lutheran Church and the parking lot is owned by the church. Carr has served as the church's lawyer in the past.
11 Investigates will bring you all the details after tonight’s meeting.