Licking County News

Pataskala City Council

Hearing on Fox malfeasance charges still set for Jan. 14

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Pataskala City Council still plans to hear malfeasance charges against Councilman Mike Fox at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 in council chambers.

The charges, brought forth by Mayor Steve Butcher, allege that Fox committed malfeasance by participating in disciplinary proceedings for former West Licking Fire Chief David Fulmer after City Council directed him not to do so.

Fox also is being charged with malfeasance that occurred July 22, 2013, when heavy rainfall caused a section of foundation to collapse at a building at the northeast corner of Front and Main streets.

Fox, whose businesses were based in the building, attempted "to obstruct official business by interfering with the fire department trying to secure the area for the purpose of protecting the public," according to city officials.

Fox will be unable to vote in the proceedings, and a vote of two-thirds of City Council would be required to remove him from office, according to the charter.

Pataskala City Council on Dec. 2 voted 5-0, with Fox abstaining and Merissa McKinstry absent, to table a motion to make the Jan. 14 hearing a special meeting.

On Dec. 16, City Council voted 4-3 to reconsider the motion before tabling it again in a 4-3 vote.

Dan Hayes, McKinstry, Bryan Lenzo and Pat Sagar voted to reconsider the motion, with Bernard Brush, Mike Compton and Fox voting against it.

Brush, Compton, Hayes and Fox voted to table the motion.

City Attorney Rufus Hurst said if City Council designates the Jan. 14 hearing as a special meeting, the date could be changed -- if needed -- from that Butcher set. According to city charter, the mayor sets the date as the charging official.

Brush said it is inappropriate for the current City Council to make decisions about the hearing since two new members and a new mayor will take office in January.

"I think it's ludicrous for us to tell them what to do," Brush said.

Todd Barstow and Timothy Hickin will replace Brush, who was defeated in the November election, and McKinstry, who did not seek re-election. Lenzo defended his at-large seat in the election.

Meanwhile, Butcher lost his bid for re-election to Compton, whose seat will remain vacant until council appoints another member to serve Ward 2.

Brush also attempted in discussion of the 2014 budget to remove $25,000 that could be spent on a special prosecutor from the city attorney's fund.

He said that, too, should be decided by the new council members.

Jim Helfich of Pataskala, who spoke during comments before the meeting, said he does not want the city to spend any more money on investigations against Fox.

Over the past 15 months, Fox has been the subject of three investigations related to Fulmer's firing.

Brush's proposed budget amendment, which was seconded by Compton, failed 4-3 with Hayes, Lenzo, McKinstry and Sagar and Hayes voting against it.

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