XENIA — City council Monday found that a pair of councilmen violated the city charter as a three-day inquiry came to an end but stopped short of removing them from office. After a short deliberation period, council voted 5-0 with the subjects of the inquiry recusing themselves.
John Caupp and Dale Louderback were accused by council of violating the charter when they announced they planned to invest in an estimated $7 million family entertainment center. They also announced they had accepted employment opportunities with the developer. Neither of those ended up taking place.
An inquiry into their alleged actions was approved by council July 23 and began Aug. 19 and 20. Council could have removed them from office but chose not to.
Much of the testimony and fact-finding circulated around when a conflict of interest begins; would council, in particular President Mike Engle and Vice-President Josh Long could be impartial; were Caupp and Louderback given due process; and if council actually had a legal right to remove the pair from council.
Long, during deliberations, said he felt a conflict of interest took place, but he was questioning if council actually could remove Caupp and Louderback from office. He also said he felt the pair didn’t do anything with bad intentions and would like to allow the Ohio Ethics Commission conclude its investigation.
Councilman Wes Smith agreed that there was a conflict of interest and the threat of civil suits by the pair’s legal counsel would not sway how he voted.
Louderback questioned if he and Caupp received due process.
“The inquiry, what a joke,” he said. “How can you be judge, jury and executioner. How can you be that? Is that due process?”
Councilmember Jeanne Mills agreed with Long that removing them from council would not eliminate the situation and would support only a public reprimand.
Mayor Marsha Bayless said she felt there was a conflict but wants the city to “get by this” and wants the city to heal.
Caupp said this has affected his family and that it’s embarrassing when friends and family question what he’s gotten into.
He also said during the executive session information shared was not secretive and that they announced their conflict at the proper time.
“We did exactly what our law director asked us to do,” Caupp said.
He also said there is a good shot they will be re-elected and is it worth possible litigation to remove them for four months.
Engle said council’s primary duty is the defense and preservation of the charter and that perhaps the pair had no ill intent when they started the venture.
But he said the facts speak for themselves and the charter has been breached. He said there is sufficient uncertainty as to whether council can remove the pair.