Whitehall News

Board appointments

Howard's legal woes prompt mayor to reject him as liaison

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The pending criminal trial of a Whitehall school board member was a contributing factor in the decision of Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard to reject his nomination as a board representative on a city commission.

Whitehall Board of Education member Brandon Howard is scheduled to begin a trial Feb. 4 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Howard, 21, pleaded not guilty Oct. 2 to a felony count of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. The indictment stems from an Aug. 7 incident in which Howard allegedly was carrying a loaded firearm during Whitehall's National Night Out celebration at John Bishop Park.

Howard was not arrested and surrendered the firearm to police.

Maggard said it "was not in the best interest of the city" for her to accept Howard's nomination as the board's representative on the commission, a sentiment she said she has shared with board president Walter Armes and Whitehall Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy.

At the Dec. 13 board meeting, members were to consider an ordinance nominating Zackary Wright as the board's representative on the Whitehall Recreation and Parks Commission.

Howard, suggesting that a board member should be the representative, expressed an interest in the appointment and was nominated instead, with all members, including himself, supporting the nomination.

Board members have served as representatives, but in the recent past, the board has opted to nominate a civilian instead.

Maggard said she shared her concerns about the nomination with city attorney Mike Shannon, saying the nomination constituted a conflict of interest as the person appointed is paid a stipend to serve on the commission.

An attorney for the school board concurred, and a special board meeting was convened Dec. 20 to reconsider Howard's nomination and that of another member, Blythe Wood, who also had supported her own nomination to serve on another board.

Wood abstained during a second vote to reconsider her nomination, which stood, but board members had no reconsideration of Howard because Maggard already had appointed Wright to a new three-year term beginning Jan. 1.

The city charter, Maggard said, is silent about whether the mayor is authorized to appoint only a person the board nominates.

After consulting with Shannon, Maggard said, she made her own appointment, as provided for in the city charter.

Maggard cited the pending indictment Brandon Howard faces as one of the factors in rejecting his nomination but also said Shannon had indicated a conflict-of-interest concern that Howard had voted to support his own nomination to the commission.

"The Recreation and Parks Commission faces a big challenge," Maggard said, and the most qualified people need to be considered.

The city is in the early stages of developing and constructing a $10 million community center -- the city's first -- at the site of a former U.S. Army Reserve Center on Country Club Drive.

Howard showed "poor judgment" concerning the incident at National Night Out, Maggard said.

A Franklin County grand jury, based on information the Whitehall Division of Police has provided, handed up an indictment Sept. 28 against Howard for one count of carrying a concealed weapon without a proper permit, a fourth-degree felony.

According to a Whitehall police report, Whitehall school board member Mike Adkins informed Police Chief Richard Zitzke that Howard was carrying a concealed handgun at Nat-ional Night Out on Aug. 7 but did not have a permit to do so.

Police confirmed through the Ohio Attorney General's Office that Howard did not have a concealed-carry permit.

Zitzke and Police Maj. Trent Martin approached Howard and asked if he had a gun. Howard told police he was carrying a firearm and that he had obtained a permit about one week prior to the incident as he is employed with a security company.

Police had personal knowledge that Howard is employed at a security company, according to the report.

Howard told police he did not have the permit but usually keeps it in his vehicle. Police accompanied him to his vehicle, where he was unable to locate it and advised police it was at his residence.

While at his vehicle, Brent Howard and Bill Wood, the spouse of another Whitehall board member, arrived at Brandon Howard's vehicle, police said.

According to the report, police did not consider Brandon Howard a flight risk and believed he had obtained the permit. Police allowed Brent Howard to take possession of the firearm.

Brandon Howard told police he would present the permit at the Whitehall Division of Police by 4 p.m. the following day, police said.

When Brandon Howard did not report to the station Aug. 8, police contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and was told CCW permits are recorded with the state as they are issued.

On Aug. 9, Whitehall police detained Brandon Howard during a traffic stop. According to the report, the traffic stop occurred at or near the Ross Road residence of Brandon Howard's fiancee, Adkins' daughter.

Brandon Howard told police his employer mistakenly had informed him he had a permit to carry a firearm.

According to the report, Brandon Howard told police he was a "victim of relying on what his boss told him" and would no longer carry a gun.

Brandon Howard told police his employer never gave him any documentation, contradicting what he initially told police Aug. 7 at National Night Out, police said in the report.

Police retrieved the firearm and confiscated it.

According to the report, Brandon Howard told police he assumed the issue would be "just swept under the rug," Zitzke wrote in his report.

The gun was sent to a laboratory for testing, and after it was determined to be an operable firearm, the case was presented to a grand jury, which returned an indictment.

Attorney Samuel Shamansky represents Howard and told ThisWeek that he and his client desire to resolve the issue quickly.

"(Brandon) has entered a plea of not guilty, and we look forward to discovery from the prosecutor's office so we can resolve this case as quickly as possible," Shamansky said in October.

Shamansky has not returned subsequent calls for comment about the case.

Brandon Howard has not been available for comment.

Armes said in October that although the incident is "not good for the board's image," the board would wait until the case is concluded before considering whether the incident should affect Howard's capacity as a board member.

 

Reporter Deborah M. Dunlap contributed to this story.

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