HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) — The delayed Huber Heights city manager election has caused tension between City Council members and the Dayton NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
The four finalist candidates were narrowed down to Luke Sims, Gerald Smith, Richard Dzik and John Wilson.
Dr. Derrick Foward, Dayton NAACP President, said that the NAACP hoped that candidate Gerald Smith would be selected for the city manager position in a June 7 letter to Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore.
However, at a June 29 Huber Heights press conference, Gore said that Smith was no longer being considered for the position due to a lack of qualifications for the job. Gore also stated that several council members also had concerns about the city of Creedmoor N.C. buying out Smith’s contract last month.
“The reason cited…was that he was crisscrossing the country, looking for another job, while still on the city’s payroll,” Gore said.
“I believe that information reinforced the idea that Mr. Smith was not our candidate. I want to assure everyone that the color of Mr. Smith’s skin had no part in the decision of council not to move forward, and had everything to do with his employment history and the payout he received to leave his current employer.”
Foward expressed the belief that racial bias is playing a role in council’s decision not to choose candidate Gerald Smith at the NAACP press conference on June 29. Foward also said that it is not irregular for people to job search while they are employed.
It has been over a year since the Huber Heights city manager position has been filled permanently. The position was temporarily taken over by interim Brian Chodkowski in November 2021.
At a June 27 meeting, city council members intended to vote on the decision to appoint finalist Richard Dzik to the city manager role.
Dzik has served as the city of Mount Vernon’s safety service director since the end of 2019.
However, the election was delayed due to the absence of Councilman Ed Lyons. Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore called for the decision to be made a future meeting, in order to allow all council members to cast their vote.
During the Huber Heights City Council press conference, Gore said he believes some city council members are obstructing the process by purposely being absent from the meetings, but said he will not allow the decision to be made without all council members present, even if this means further delaying the decision.
Gore also expressed his favor for Chodkowski’s performance in the interim role, saying that he would be fine with letting Chodkowski keep the position for as long as it takes for members to come to a decision.
Foward voiced his frustration with how the delayed election is being handled at the NAACP press conference.
“One council member was not there, but you handled the business of Huber Heights throughout the whole meeting,” Foward said. “You conducted all other business, voted up or down on all other business, without the presence of the council member…so, that should not stop you from having an up or down vote for Mr. Richard Dzik.”
However, Gore rebutted that he believes all members should be present for a vote to appoint a city manager, because it’s such an important decision.
He said until all council members show up to cast their votes, he will continue to move the agenda item of appointment to a later date.
“If there’s not a majority objection on council to moving this item to another reading, that’s exactly what we’ll do,” he said.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Monday, July 11.