DOVER – The mayor of a small town in eastern Ohio who has stopped coming to work and council meetings for months is back to find himself at the center of state investigation and news requests for dismissal of the director of the municipal power plant.

Three attorneys from the Ohio Auditor’s office have been appointed special prosecutors for all related matters to a state inquiry into the eight-term mayor of Dover, Richard Homrighausen, 73.

Tuscarawas County Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos has appointed attorneys Robert Smith, Samuel Kirk and Thomas Anger for any matter related to an investigation into Homrighausen by the Ohio Auditor’s Office or the Ethics Commission of the Ohio.

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Dover City Council had previously commissioned its own investigation into the mayor’s physical and mental well-being and how he performed his duties, including his role in the city by hiring one of his sons.

Dover is a town of nearly 13,000 people approximately 45 miles south of Akron in Tuscarawas County.

Homrighausen hadn’t attended council meetings since before breaking his hip in February. He eventually started using Zoom to present his mayoral reports until council demanded in-person briefings. The mayor returned in July to be peppered with questions from council members who called on him to step down, citing declining confidence in his ability to run the city.

Members are now demanding that Homrighausen Power Plant Superintendent Dave Filippi fire, who approved spending $ 350,000 to repair the generators without council permission. Filippi has accepted a new job in West Virginia but remains on the payroll to use the vacation accumulated.

Homrighausen did not fire Filippi, recently telling the board: “I’ll have to think about it.”

Dover Legal Director Doug O'Meara (right) questions Mayor Richard Homrighausen during a Dover City Council meeting on Monday.

What is being investigated in Dover?

The council’s investigative report in May described a general manager who broke away from city affairs, used his influence to hire his son for a municipal job, and expected employees to solicit donations for his re-election campaigns.

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Homrighausen could not be reached for comment. He was re-elected in 2019 for a term ending in December 2023.

City Council Chairman Shane Gunnoe welcomed the appointments of the special prosecutors.

“Under Ohio law, I can’t really comment on the matter any further except to say I’m grateful for the due diligence state authorities are putting in place,” Gunnoe said. “I encourage the employees of the City of Dover to cooperate fully with the investigation.”

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The board’s investigation, conducted by lawyers from the Ulmer & Berne law firm, found eight specific areas of concern with Homrighausen, including neglect of liability; delegation of authority to non-municipal staff; obstruct the legislative investigation of the city council; non-enforcement of the drug-free workplace policy; potential nepotism; potential inappropriate compensation; failure to disclose compensation to the ethics committee; and canvassing calls by city employees for a fundraising event for the Mayor’s campaign.

The summary notes that Homrighausen was unavailable during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing unelected municipal workers to take on city policy-related duties during the crisis.

According to the summary, the mayor made almost no contribution to the 2021 city budget, regularly missed labor negotiations with the city police union, and failed to provide proposed pay scales for the city. non-negotiating staff.

The report further alleges that Homrighausen “inappropriately delegated management and response to emails to employees outside of town,” including a son, Nick, and his wife, Linda. The report says the mayor officially identified his wife as his “designate” to city employees and allowed her access to a public building and public records unattended.

The report also claims that the mayor’s son Peter was involved in a minor accident two years ago while working for the general service department. He has never been tested for drugs, although he reportedly told his supervisors that he did not believe he could pass a drug test. The incident was reported to the mayor by one of his son’s supervisors, but the mayor took no action.

“This is a direct violation of section II.B.4 of the city’s drug-free workplace policy by failing to act when information is provided by a reliable source,” the report said. .

Dover Power Plant Problems

The board’s complaints now include questions about the $ 350,000 in cost overruns for repairs to the light plant last year.

One of the cost overruns was $ 199,350 to Sulzer Turbo in Houston, which the city hired to inspect the plant’s steam turbine, which was built in 1967. The turbine was shipped to Texas, where the company discovered significant problems.

“The work was authorized by (Superintendent) Dave Filippi signing a letter to provide services without having the authority to enter into such an agreement and allowed the work to proceed without sufficient funds being encumbered to carry out well the project, ”said Auditor Nicole Stoldt.

She said it was a violation of Ohio law.

Gunnoe also questions two other projects, including paying a company in Illinois to test and inspect a 7.5 megawatt turbine that has not been used in the light plant since 1998. This was done without the authorization or consent of the board.

Deputy Superintendent Jason Hall told council the turbine has been in Illinois for several years. He didn’t know how much had been spent on the work, but the city pays one or two purchase orders a year for $ 20,000 or $ 25,000.

Gunnoe said he had seen all of the purchase orders since 2018 and they were in the order of $ 100,000.

“Has the board already been informed? Gunnoe asked Hall.

“No, sir,” Hall replied.

Homrighausen added: “This was not authorized by me.”

Hall said Dover owed nearly $ 183,000 for work done so far on a third turbine purchased in 2016.

Gunnoe said Dover owed more than $ 350,000 for cost overruns and nearly $ 750,000 for work at the light plant.

Filippi has apparently accepted a job at Mountain State Carbon of Follansbee, W.Va., a company that produces coke for steelmaking.

“Who’s in charge of the light factory now?” City Councilor Kevin Korns asked.

Homrighausen said Hall is in charge. Hall added that Filippi had told him he would be on vacation until the end of the year.

Homrighausen is currently paid $ 98,090. His salary is expected to increase to $ 100,542 in 2022. The board approved the compensation schedule in December 2019.

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