More than 40 people crowded into Pataskala City Council chambers Tuesday, Jan. 14, for a special meeting on charges of malfeasance against Councilman Mike Fox, but all went home unheard after City Council members recessed the meeting because of a procedural issue.
Pataskala Law Director Rufus Hurst recommended City Council recess the hearing until 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15, at which time council could appoint someone to preside over what Hurst called “quasi-judicial administrative proceedings.”
Hurst said the mayor typically presides over meetings but he said there are concerns with Mike Compton because he tried to dismiss the charges against Fox at City Council’s last regular meeting Jan. 6, he has been subpoenaed by Fox’s legal counsel and he has spent hours trying to resolve the issue prior to the hearing.
Hurst said he recommends using someone trained in the process to preside over the hearing.
Councilman Todd Barstow disagreed with Hurst and said the city’s charter states the mayor should preside over meetings. He said he couldn’t find any provision in the charter allowing City Council to authorize someone else to preside over a meeting.
The city’s charter section 11.01 on “removal of officials” refers to “the mayor, or other presiding officer of the council” under paragraph (F), where it explains that City Council is the “judge of the qualifications of and of the grounds for removal from office and shall conduct the proceedings relative to removal.”
Council President Dan Hayes made a motion to recess to Jan. 15 and to appoint Larry Arnold, an attorney from Hebron, to preside over the hearing. City Councilman Bryan Lenzo gave a second and the motion was supported by Pat Sagar and Tim Hickin, with Barstow voting against it.
Hurst said because the Jan. 15 meeting is a “quasi-judicial” hearing, members of the public will be allowed to observe but not to speak during the proceedings, which brought many negative responses from the audience.
Fox’s attorney, Acacia Perko of the Mallory Law Office of Columbus, objected to recessing the hearing, saying Compton should have been allowed to dismiss the charges, and she objected to City Council preventing any public comment.