Licking County News

Pataskala City Council

Fox hearing could be designated as special meeting


Pataskala City Council will wait until Monday, Dec. 16, to work out some of the details regarding a Jan. 14 hearing for malfeasance charges against Councilman Mike Fox.

City Council members voted Dec. 2 to table a motion to hold a special meeting Jan. 14. A special meeting would allow them to vote on the charges.

Bernard Brush, Mike Compton, Dan Hayes, Bryan Lenzo and Pat Sagar agreed to table the motion, with Fox abstaining from the vote. Merissa McKinstry and Mayor Steve Butcher, who breaks tie votes, were absent.

Law Director Rufus Hurst said the hearing has been set for Jan. 14 but City Council must decide the type of meeting.

Hurst said by designating the hearing as a special meeting, City Council members would not discuss any other business that night.

Fox asked Hurst if he could participate in the vote for a special meeting. Hurst said he could not counsel Fox because he is the city's law director and prosecutor and has to respond to the charges.

Hurst said if the city hires outside legal counsel to present the charges at the hearing, he could advise Fox at that time.

Hurst recommended tabling the motion and reconsidering it Dec. 16.

"I think (Fox) needs to be given a fair opportunity to consider, ponder or decide whether or not he feels it is appropriate to vote on this," Hurst said.

Fox said he would consult an attorney before the motion is reconsidered next week.

"I'm not sure whether I was permitted to participate in that vote, and it's pretty clear that with the six people that were there, it probably would have been a 3-3 vote," Fox said after the meeting.

Butcher issued Fox a letter Nov. 25 informing him Pataskala City Council would hear charges of malfeasance he allegedly committed by participating in disciplinary proceedings for former West Licking fire chief David Fulmer.

Fox, who was Pataskala's representative to the West Licking fire board through October 2012, has been the subject of three investigations related to the firing of Fulmer.

Pataskala City Council in September hired outside legal counsel to initiate the third investigation after Hurst said he found evidence indicating Fox might have failed to comply with a directive from City Council prohibiting him from participating in the Fulmer investigation proceedings.

The city put $10,000 in the account for outside legal counsel and had spent $3,893.01 as of Dec. 3, according to Finance Director James Nicholson.

Butcher's letter also listed charges of malfeasance that allegedly occurred July 22, 2013, when heavy rains caused a section of foundation to collapse at a building at the northeast corner of Front and Main streets. Fox's two businesses are based in the building.

The Jan. 14 hearing will "determine whether (Fox) committed malfeasance on the charges and whether (he) should be removed from office," according to the letter.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Pataskala City Council chambers.