XENIA — City council Thursday voted to open an inquiry into alleged actions of fellow councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback.
The inquiry, scheduled for Aug. 19-20, stems from an announcement the pair made earlier this year which stated their intentions to invest in a proposed entertainment center/movie theater project at Xenia Towne Square and be employed by the management company. The entertainment center was proposed to be on city-owned land, leased to the building owner.
The inquiry will help determine if the pair violated section 4.08 of the Xenia City Charter, which states:
No Council member, including the Mayor, may hold any other public office during their term on the Council, nor shall any member of Council have an interest in any contract, job, work or service with or for the City, nor in the profits or emoluments thereof, nor in the expenditure of any money on the part of the City other than the member’s fixed compensation, and any contract with the City in which such Council member is, or becomes, interested may be declared void by the Council.
In making the motion, councilman Wes Smith said the council has “reasonable cause to believe” the pair have violated the city charter as well as ORC 102.03 titled “Representation by present or former public official or employee prohibited” and and 292.42, titled “Having an unlawful interest in a public contract.” Council has already referred the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission which has yet to make any public comment.
Caupp said neither he nor Louderback have done anything wrong. Reading from a prepared statement Caupp said:
“We will have more compelling and detailed information to share on this subject and related subjects in the future. At this time, based on the advice of our attorneys, we have this statement for you. Through this entire process, we have fully cooperated with the Ohio Ethics Commission. We are confident there has been no conflict of interest, and we believe the ethics commission is the proper body to examine the situation. We are disappointed that the taxpayer monies are being wasted in the politically driven effort to eliminate us from council. It is obvious the outcome is preordained. Councilman Louderback and I have a genuine interest in the city of Xenia and its citizens. It is our longtime home, and we are continually trying to do the right thing for this community. Yet council wants us to resign and not remain in office, thus removing the taxpayers, you, your choice of elected office. Whatever action council takes, we do intend to seek re-election and continue to represent the citizens of Xenia.”
Louderback questioned why the Ohio Ethics Commission investigation isn’t enough and said the inquiry is politically driven.
“What a surprise, right at election time,” he said. Terms for Caupp, Louderback, Council President Mike Engle and Vice-President Josh Long expire at the end of this year.
“We have done nothing wrong,” Louderback said. “These allegations have no merit. This is not going to fly.”
Residents packed the council chamber, several speaking in favor or the project and/or Caupp and Louderback.
John Lemoult, a former attorney, said Louderback is “One of the finest people this town could produce.”
“He cares about the ordinary people,” Lemoult said. “This is a man with deep integrity.” He added the charges are libelous and asked council to withdraw them.
Harvey Johnson, who previously addressed council regarding this subject, said his main concern is for the project but doesn’t want Caupp and Louderback to be the scapegoat if the project does not move forward.
Dave Buccalo questioned weather council had the authority to launch such an investigation and called it “… stealing an election.” He said the outcome of the inquiry will not hold up in court and the taxpayers would be paying for the legal fees.
Caupp and Louderback recused themselves from voting on the motion. It passed 4-0 as Mayor Marsha Bayless was absent.