Nelsonville to pay $21k fine over former city manager’s contract mishap (Updated)

Also, the state recently declined to investigate accusations that council members illegally accessed city email addresses.
A sign for Nelsonville City Hall, and the building's exterior.
Nelsonville City Hall. Photo by Dani Kington.

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio —- Nelsonville City Council passed an emergency ordinance Monday night to pay a fine of more than $20,000 to cancel a contract signed by its former city manager. Additionally, the state recently declined to investigate accusations that council members illegally accessed city email addresses, records show.

Ordinance 47-23, passed unanimously as an emergency, authorized the city to “take any legal acts necessary to make the appropriate changes to the AEP, AEP Energy and Freepoint contracts,” including a $21,154 cancellation fee payment to Freepoint. The Independent requested a copy of the ordinance and relevant contracts, but had not received them at time of publication.


According to the ordinance, previous and former city manager Bernie Roell “wrongfully entered the city into two energy contracts, one with AEP and one with Freepoint.” The Freepoint contract would have cost the city an additional $100,000, the ordinance states.

On Wednesday, Roell told the Independent that “There was no contract wrongfully entered into with AEP;” he contacted AEP to renew a contract, signed by Scott Frank in 2020, that was set to expire this June. “I basically reworked out a deal with current electric provider,” he said. “They’re just trying to make a bigger deal out of it.”

Email access accusations

During closing remarks, council member Dan Sherman addressed accusations from City Auditor Taylor Sappington that he and former council member Glennda Tingle attempted to unlawfully access email accounts for Sappington and the city service director. 

In a July 24 letter obtained by the Independent, the Ohio Attorney General’s office told Tolliver that neither it nor the Bureau of Criminal Investigation would investigate the allegations due to “internal request prioritization.” 

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On Monday night, Sherman provided two July 12 emails from Jay Saner, the city’s former IT director, that stated (in part): “At no time, did Dan Sherman ask me to break into any counsel email accounts to reveal communication data. The Athens Messenger article on July 10th is wrong in this aspect.” 

Saner added in another email to Sherman, “nor did you ask me to break into any city employee’s email account.” 

Saner confirmed with the Independent Tuesday that he did send those statements via email to Sherman at Sherman’s request.

Sherman passed out copies of Saner’s statements Monday night and said he expected a retraction from the Messenger. Sonick suggested that the council owed Sherman an apology.  After several exchanges between council members Justin Booth, Council President Tony Dunfee, Sherman and Sonick, Dunfee described the topic as a “dog and pony show,” calling order and moving on from the subject.  

Filling an empty seat

Prior to “the good of the order” closing remarks, there was also a brief attempt to fill the council seat vacated by Glennda Tingle last month.

During business and organizational comments, council member Nancy Sonick told Dunfee, “I understand that tonight, you may or may not choose someone to fill the empty chair,” adding that she “had to find out through the grapevine” and “when you have things like this going on … I really wish that you would allow all of us to be privy to it.”

“Privy to what?” Dunfee asked. 

“Whatever is going to happen in the meetings,” Sonick said.

“OK, sure,” Dunfee responded.

Later, following department updates, Booth made a motion to interview candidates for the open council seat. 

Sherman voted no, stating “I don’t think all the candidates have been contacted.” Sonick voted no as well because she was not aware that candidates would be interviewed Monday night.

When it came time for him to vote, council member Gregg Clement said, “That raises a question: Were the candidates all contacted?” 

“I thought we discussed putting it to vote tonight,” Dunfee replied.

Instead, the council will hold a special meeting to appoint someone to fill its seventh seat, Dunfee said. 

Among those in the audience was former council member Doug Childs, who resigned in February, and Opha Lawson, another individual interested in the council seat. 

An audience member spoke on behalf of a third candidate, Jonathan Flowers, who spoke on his behalf that he was not notified of any potential council interviews Monday night. Flowers was interviewed in April for the seat that Booth ultimately filled

In other business:

City officials encouraged Nelsonville residents to fill out a water line service survey for an Environmental Protection Agency grant. The “Water Service Line Survey”’ can be downloaded from the city’s website or picked up at Nelsonville City Hall, 211 Lake Hope Dr. Completed surveys should be dropped off at city hall.

The Nelsonville Division of Fire, through the American Red Cross, is providing free fire alarms. Contact the fire department at its non-emergency number, (740) 753-1244, for more information.

The annual Parade of the Hills Festival is also this week. The following streets will be closed to all traffic until the morning of Monday, Aug. 21:

  • West Washington Street, from the post office to Fort Street.
  • West Columbus Street, from the library to 45 E. Columbus St.
  • Rocky Boots Way, from Public Square to the alley by the Elks Lodge.
  • Public Square.

Nelsonville City Council meets every other Monday of each month. Its next regular meeting will be Monday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in Nelsonville City Council Chambers, 211 Lake Hope Drive. Meetings are also livestreamed on YouTube. Find more at

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the next regular council meeting. It has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

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