XENIA — City Councilman Dale Louderback and former councilman John Caupp have been reimbursed for legal fees related to the 2015 inquiry.
They were accused by council of violating the city 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 but ultimately neither the investments nor employment took place. Council found the pair violated the city charter and issued a public reprimand, but they were cleared of any wrong doing by the Ohio Ethics Commission.
In an agreement executed April 4 — obtained by the Gazette through a public records request — Caupp and Louderback were awarded $72,500 and agreed to unconditionally release, acquit and forever discharge the City of Xenia (including all current and former elected and appointed officials and current and former employees and volunteers in their individual and official capacities) of and from any and all liability, claims, demands, controversies, actions, causes of action and suits at law or in equity, known or unknown which they have or may have against the city.
The money came from the city’s insurance company, according to public relations coordinator Lee Warren.
In the agreement, Caupp and Louderback acknowledged that the city denies liability and responsibility for any and all claims asserted by the pair, and further acknowledge that the payment shall not be construed as an admission of liability and is solely paid to preclude litigation expense.
Through the agreement, neither are allowed to comment other than to say “the matter has been resolved” or “the matter is over.”
In an Oct. 14, 2016 demand letter obtained through a public records request, attorney Dwight Brannon asked for:
— Nullification, withdrawal, and sealing of any action taken by council against Caupp and Louderback, including a public apology;
— Damages to clients for injuries, including corresponding dignatory and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as invasion of privacy in their business lives, including the use of inquiry to cost Caupp his council seat in the election, as well as causing Louderback to drop from the top vote getter in the past election to fourth;
— An acknowledgement that there is no right under the Xenia City Charter to impose reprimands, sanctions, and other discipline;
— Personal liability through disgorgement and the willful, wanton, reckless, malicious conduct of conduct members in initiating the proceeds, including the legal expenses expended by Caupp and Louderback.
Brannon called the inquiry a “sham legal process prohibited by the Ohio Revised Code which provides for recovery of costs and attorney fees.” Legal fees exceeded $80,000 as of the date of the demand letter.
“We had some pretty good causes of action that we could have brought,” Brannon said. “It was a mistake for them to try to hold their own disciplinary actions. It was not appropriate for council to do that.”
Xenia City Manager Brent Merriman declined comment, saying it was an insurance matter, not really an operational matter.