Thursday, May 07, 2015

Portsmouth's Carpetbagging City Manager

“Let me see if I’ve got this straight, Mr. Allen. You say you are the city manager of Portsmouth, Ohio, but your home is in Piqua, Ohio, a couple of hours away, where you were once assistant city manager but where you were convicted of illegally buying $160,000 dollars worth of stones for a bicycle path from a company that the  mayor of Piqua was a salesman for, which offense was called “dereliction of duty,” and that you lied under oath about this illegal transaction,  making you a perjurer, which the mayor of Piqua himself said was what really got you in trouble, and then the city manager of Piqua, who also said you lied to him about the illegal transaction,  fired you, but you managed to get a job as Village Administrator in Delta, Ohio, where they didn’t need any stones for bicycle paths because they were in the boondocks, so to speak, so you were not guilty of anything, so the search committee from Portsmouth, Ohio, which was looking for a city manager and was chaired by the  same-sex councilman and vice mayor, Kevin W. Johnson, who offered you the city managership, which you probably wouldn’t have gotten if  your trouble with the law was publicized but it was not until after you were hired, and then  you rented an apartment from the controversial developer named Hatcher who has a sweetheart deal with Shawnee State University which guarantees him students for his dormitories in Hatcherville and if occupancy in Hatcherville ever goes below 90 percent the university must make up the difference. So now nobody knows you are the hatchet man for this Hatcher and as long as he is your landlord you feel you have taken a new lease on life and with the passage of the income tax hike by less than ten percent of the registered voters the city will not have to be put under fiscal emergency watch as the county was, which some people think was the best thing that ever happened to county government, but you don’t and you are opposed to a skate park, as you are opposed to  freshmen  being allowed to opt out of Hatcherville dorms, and now that Kevin W. Johnson may soon be saying Sayonara and out of your hair, you are looking forward to building a bicycle path from Portsmouth to Piqua.  Have I got all this straight, Mr. Allen?”

If the recent vote on the increased income tax does nothing else it should open the eyes of at least some of those residents who think of City Manager Derek Allen as the Mr. Clean of Portsmouth politics, as somebody who is always trying to do the right thing for the residents of the city. I believe that who he is trying to do the right thing for, as his career makes fairly clear, is  Derek Allen. It is not the residents of Portsmouth he is serving but the  clique that controls the city economically and politically.  Allen is  a carpetbagger who serves the fat cats, like the real estate kingpin Neal Hatcher, from whom he rents an apartment on North Hill Road. If Hatcher has a duplicity suite in that North Hill complex, Allen should occupy it. Allen is  a carpetbagger because his home is in Piqua, Ohio, to which he commutes as his flexible schedule allows.
     He has a  well-paying job in Portsmouth, but he does not appear willing to commit himself to making Portsmouth his primary residence. Nor should he if he knows what’s good for him. He does not have much job security because the City Council can fire him at any time. He is in his early fifties, so he might hold on to his high paying job until it is time for him to retire. He has good political skills. He is a master at telling  people just what they want to hear and playing off one boob on the city council against another. He might be able to hold his job for another ten years or so, until retirement age.  But in the unlikely event that he does that, he will have worked longer than he has at other jobs he’s held.
     Prior to becoming the city manager of Portsmouth, Allen was the Delta Village Administrator from February 2008 to December 2013. Delta is village of just over 3000 inhabitants located in the Northeast corner of Ohio. What was an ambitious administrator with a master’s degree in public administration doing in a rustic, small-potatoes hamlet like Delta? You could say he was doing penance.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone

     On August 13, 2004, when he was serving as the assistant city manager of Piqua, Allen was convicted of dereliction of duty for having bought $160,000 worth of stone for a bike path without putting the purchase out for bid as was required by law. It so happened that the Mayor of Piqua was a salesman for the company that Allen purchased the stone from. Was he helping himself by helping well-placed politicians to public monies? Is that how he operates politically? It sure appears that way. Allen badmouths those entrepreneurs who dare to compete with Hatcher by providing housing to accommodate students.
     Allen compounded his problems in Piqua by lying under oath about his role in the purchase of that $160,000 load of stone. The Piqua mayor, who was a salesman for the stone company, said that where Allen really got in  trouble was “when he lied and tried to cover it up.” It was like a mini-Watergate in which the coverup was worse than the crime. Allen was fined and given a ninety-day jail sentence, but that was suspended after he agreed to cooperate with the on-going investigation of the stone purchase. 
     As soon as he was convicted, Allen was fired as  assistant manager of Piqua by the city manager Mark Rohr, who said that Allen, in addition to lying under oath, had lied to him about the purchase. But dereliction of duty and perjury weren’t the only legal problems Allen has had. He  had worked as the safety director at Van Wert, Ohio, a town of about ten thousand in northwest Ohio,  but he left that position after  he was named as a defendant in two civil lawsuits.

Following in Feldman’s Footsteps

     Supporters of Allen claim that he indicated at council meetings and indicated to  them personally that he was not in favor of the tax hike. That may have been what he was saying, or implying, but I believe Allen knew from the start that he would be in favor of the hike. Was he lying to those he told he was not in favor of the hike? Is lying one of the political skills he has resorted in his career? If he does lie he is following in the footsteps of former Portsmouth city manager Barry Feldman who concluded that city managers have to be politicians if they hope to survive and if there’s one thing politicians do more than anything else it  is not tell the truth. Not telling the truth goes with the territory. When it comes to not telling the truth Allen is carpetbagging trooper.
     Allen may be a carpetbagger but that has not stopped him from becoming the most important  politician in city government. He was instrumental in getting the tax increased passed. He let it be known there would have to be layoffs of city employees if the tax hike was not passed. That was like guaranteeing city employees would quietly campaign for the tax hike—quietly because campaigning is illegal for city employees.  Allen went along with  the tradition of having the most  controversial issues, like the tax hike,  on the ballot in the primary off-year elections when voter turnout is always low. In fact, the amendment to return to the city manager form of government, the passage of which eventually led to Allen’s hiring, was also, if I am recalling correctly,  passed in a primary election. There are currently 11,613 registered voters in the city. It took less than ten percent of those registered voters to pass the tax hike. That isn’t democracy—it’s hypocrisy!
     Somebody reliable told me that our officious, conniving First Ward councilman Kevin W. Johnson, who helped Allen get hired by keeping Allen’s  conviction for dereliction of duty and predilection for lying unpublicized, until after Allen was hired, is writing on Facebook, or wherever, about riding off into the sunset, to Florida and California, once he sells his antique laden house. What a legacy Kevin W. will have left us: a lying, carpetbagging city manager whose landlord, if not feudal lord,  is Neal Hatcher. Is the current city government with  Allen as the de facto mayor and the cretin Jim Kalb as the vice mayor—is this an improvement over the past? I don’t think so.

Bikers in Piqua where Allen was sentenced to 90 
days for dereliction and perjury.