POMEROY — Pomeroy Village Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss allegations of discrimination by one village employee against another.
Council President Jackie Welker stated that the allegations claim discrimination by an elected official, Mayor Mary McAngus, against an employee of the village.
According to Pomeroy Police Chief Mark Proffitt, the employee is an officer with the village police department — who was not named in the meeting — is openly gay.
Welker said that he, along with council members Dru Reed, Phil Ohlinger and Robert Payne, had called the meeting in an effort to get to the bottom of the allegations.
According to Welker, eight signed statements by village employees have been filed alleging discrimination in the workplace on the part of McAngus against the officer.
The legality of the situation is complicated, however.
The Ohio Revised Code 4112.02 states:
It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice:
(A) For any employer, because of the race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.
Matters of discrimination based on sexual orientation are not addressed in the Ohio Revised Code, leaving Council to navigate a decidedly gray legal area.
Welker asked that Council enter into executive session to discuss the matter. Some members of Council and those in attendance questioned if the matter was appropriate for executive session or if it should be heard in open session.
According to discussion, a legal opinion letter given by Village Solicitor Michael Barr recommended that Council enter into executive session to discuss the matter further. A copy of the opinion letter was not provided to The Daily Sentinel as part of the meeting minutes.
Ohlinger moved to enter executive session, stating that in order to protect the rights of the employee, the matter should be discussed privately. Reed seconded the motion. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with council members Vic Young and Ruth Spaun voting no. Payne entered the meeting after the vote was taken.
Spaun stated that she would enter executive session under protest and will lodge a complaint with regard to the matter. Young voted no stating that he did not know if it was appropriate or not. Village resident Dan Morris also voiced his objection.
All members of council, plus Village Administrator Paul Hellman, Police Chief Proffitt, clerk Sonya Wolfe and McAngus were present in the executive session which began at 4:10 p.m. and ended at 5:51 p.m.
After executive session concluded, Ohlinger moved, at Barr’s request, to seek legal representation apart from the solicitor for some matters. The motion by Ohlinger also gave Welker the power to contact lawyers for these matters. Payne seconded the motion. The action passed by a 5-1 vote with Spaun voting no.
On Wednesday, Proffitt contacted The Daily Sentinel in regard to the allegations. Proffitt said that allegations have been made by several officers and dispatchers with the Pomeroy Police Department in which they claim a fellow officer had been discriminated against for being openly gay.
While Proffitt stated that he could not discuss the details of the meeting further, he did say that he was ordered by the mayor and Council to place a sign in the police department stating that, until further notice, members of the police department are not to contact the mayor and that public questions should be directed to Wolfe, the village clerk.
McAngus said on Wednesday afternoon that she had “no comment” with regard to Tuesday’s meeting.
The regular meeting of Pomeroy Village Council will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11 at Pomeroy Village Hall.
More on The Daily Sentinel’s exclusive interview with Pomeroy Police Chief Mark Proffitt will appear in the Friday edition of The Daily Sentinel.