NELSONVILLE, Ohio —- Records provided by Nelsonville City Council member Dan Sherman show that a previous city manager resigned via email in 2021 and remained in the position without a vote from council.
Former City Manager Scott Frank actually resigned from the position in January after serving as city manager since February 2020.
Records obtained by the Independent show that in October 2021, then-City Manager Frank disagreed with city attorney Bob Toy’s opinion on paying an employee for their last two weeks of work when they did not show.
Frank wrote in an email, “I no longer will be a part of a team that rewards bad behavior. I will not be forced to do the wrong thing again.” Toy ultimately agreed with Frank — that the employee should not be paid for two final weeks of employment, despite not showing up to work.
At the time, council members included Carla Grant, Cory Taylor (who resigned this year shortly after Frank resigned), Sherman (who is still on council), Elizabeth Jones, Justin Booth (who just returned to the council after resigning in January) and Tony Dunfee.
Jones replied to Frank four days later, “As I have not seen any other action or received further communication in terms of Mr. Frank wishing to rescind his resignation, I assume this will be on the council agenda for Monday. If that is not accurate and Scott has formally rescinded his resignation, please share that with the entirety of council.”
Frank remained city manager after the incident and was present at the following city council meeting, on Oct. 11, 2021. His resignation statement was not mentioned.
Asked if he recalled the apparent resignation and later recission, Frank referred the Independent “back to council.”
Frank’s experience contrasts with that of former city manager Bernie Roell, who resigned as city manager on May 15 during a heated city government executive session. He had served as city manager for six weeks, and was the fifth person to serve in the position in 2023.
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Roell later attempted to rescind his resignation, but at its May 22 meeting council failed to agree on whether he should be allowed to resume the position. Three members of council favored letting Roell return: Sherman, Glennda Tingle and Nancy Sonick. Three others — Booth, Gregg Clement and Dunfee — did not.
In Toy’s legal opinion, Roell’s resignation was immediately effective.
Sherman alleged that Dunfee told Frank, at the time in 2021, that the council would not accept his resignation, and that Dunfee returned Frank’s keys. Sherman said there was no communication between Dunfee and the rest of the council regarding the decision, and that Frank continued acting as city manager without further discussion or explanation.
Dunfee could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Sherman added that Toy has been asked to provide an opinion of how Frank’s 2021 resignation relates to Roell’s, but said Toy has yet to reply with an opinion.
“I have a feeling Bob Toy’s gonna answer however Tony Dunfee wants it answered,” Sherman said.
Toy could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
In the 2021 email in which he resigned, Frank said, “Bob Toy was forced down my throat and this is wrong.”
Sherman said that neither he nor Frank wanted to hire Toy, but Dunfee “convinced” the council to hire Toy. Sherman alleged Toy is “best friends” with Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who is Dunfee’s brother-in-law.
In Blackburn’s financial disclosures, obtained by the Independent, Blackburn has listed Toy as a source of gifts each year since 2014. The records do not list the amount of the gifts.
After Roell attempted to rescind his resignation, he worked until the city revoked his email access and blocked him from entering nonpublic areas of city hall.
“Continuing to portray yourself as the city manager of Nelsonville when you are not the city manager could open you up to civil and criminal penalties,” City Attorney Bob Toy wrote Roell in an email, according to WOUB.
At Nelsonville City Council’s May 22 meeting, dozens of community members turned out to support Roell in his efforts to once again become Nelsonville city manager.
Roell said he plans to address Dunfee and Toy at the next council meeting about Frank’s 2021 email resignation and Toy’s opinion on his own resignation.
In his opinion, Toy said that the Independent and the Athens Messenger reported on May 16 that Roell had resigned the previous day, which implied that his resignation was effective immediately.
Roell maintains that he made no written statement of resignation, nor did he ever say his resignation was effective immediately. “Those words never came out of my mouth,” he added.
Sherman also compared council’s handling of the April 2023 resignations and subsequent recissions by three council members (Gregg Clement, Dunfee and Neil Sommers) versus the way it handled Booth’s resignation and recission in 2022.
According to records provided by Sherman, Booth wrote to council on June 25, 2022, “Effective immediately, take this as my resignation from Nelsonville City Council. Good luck with all of it.”
Dunfee replied, “I reject your resignation. This is not what is best for the city.” In response, Booth said, “I will be staying on council. Apologies to all.”
At the following council meeting on June 27, 2022, the council voted to reappoint Booth. In contrast, Clement, Dunfee and Sommers all returned to council without a vote. (Sommers has since resigned again.)
Booth could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Nelsonville City Council meets every other Monday of each month. Its next regular meeting will be Monday, June 12 at 7 p.m. in Nelsonville City Council Chambers, 211 Lake Hope Drive. Meetings are also livestreamed on YouTube. Find more at cityofnelsonville.com.
Dani Kington and Sam Stecklow contributed to this reporting.
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