Nelsonville turmoil continues as council fails to welcome Roell back as city manager

Nelsonville City Council hosted an overflow crowd for its regular meeting Monday night, with many residents turning out to support former Nelsonville City Manager Bernie Roell.

Coverage of public meetings in York Township is supported by the Nelsonville Community Foundation Fund and the I’m a Child of Appalachia© Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.
Interested in sponsoring coverage in your community? Contact us at

NELSONVILLE, Ohio — Nelsonville City Council hosted an overflow crowd for its regular meeting Monday night, with many residents turning out to support former Nelsonville City Manager Bernie Roell.

Interim Nelsonville Police Department Chief Devon Tolliver is again serving as Nelsonville City Manager, following Roell’s resignation on Monday, May 15. Roell attempted to rescind his resignation the next day, to no avail.


The council hired Roell, a local business owner, just seven weeks ago. Roell was the city’s fifth manager this year. 

A community turns out

The council meeting chamber was at its top capacity of 49 people by 6:50 p.m. and attendees overflowed into the hallway.

A petition to rehire Roell also circulated at Monday night’s meeting, gathering around 30 signatures by 7 p.m. The audience was lively during the meeting, on multiple occasions clapping, cheering and booing. Some recorded the meeting on their personal devices.

At the beginning of the meeting, council member Gregg Clement addressed the elephant in the room: “At a special meeting on the 15th, during the executive session, interim city manager Bernie Roell verbally resigned as city manager. When we came back to council, Mr. [Tony] Dunfee made the statement, ‘Mr. Roell resigned.’”

Given the number of people attending the meeting, council president Tony Dunfee set 30 minutes aside for public comment, up to three minutes per person. Of the six individuals who spoke, five addressed the city manager situation.

Support our work to deliver independent local news for Athens County

Like what you are reading?

Hocking College Trustee Stuart Brooks suggested that the city has lost out on business due to its reputation. 

“I do know of one person that was moving, and there was a rope manufacturer out of Millersport, Ohio — he now has a Goodyear plant in Logan,” Brooks said. “And he came down here and I said to him, ‘You know what, you don’t want to get in here. This place — you can’t can’t get an answer’ … So that’s one that I know personally we lost.”

Nelsonville resident Betty Jo Parsley showed the Independent fliers used to recruit residents to the meeting which stated “Support Bernie,” adding, “Show your support for the city manager. If you want our city to thrive please get involved before it is too late!” Parsley told the Independent she and Brooks spoke on the radio (WAIS) to encourage residents to attend the meeting.

A white flier with red strips, a blue star, blue and red text that reads in capitalized sans serif font: 

City Building - Lake Hope Drive - May 22 - 6:45PM
Show your support for the city manager. If you want our city to thrive please get involved before it is too late!

A flier provided by Betty Jo Parsley. (Keri Johnson / Athens County Independent)

Roell argues his case

At the end of the citizens’ comment period, Roell read a prepared statement. He cited an Ohio Supreme Court case regarding the resignation and rescission process for public employees. 

In Davis v. Marion County Eng’r (1991), the state supreme court held that public employees may rescind or withdraw tenders of resignation before the effective date of resignation (preferably in writing), so long as the employer has not formally accepted the resignation. Roell’s resignation was apparently effective immediately.

Roell said in his statement, “Our city attorney [Bob Toy] offered an opinion letter which is public record … claiming that I was an at-will employee and don’t have the right to rescind my resignation.”

Also in his statement, Roell admitted that he resigned due to tensions during the May 18 executive session. He claimed that Dunfee created a “hostile environment,” and ”became outraged, yelling and slandering my character, forcing me to resign under distress.” 

Dunfee declined to confirm or deny Roell’s description of his behavior last Monday.

Roell told the Independent he was not hired on an interim 90-day basis, but rather signed a contract with a “back-out clause … where, at the end of the 90 days, if I decided I wanted to stay on as city manager, there would be no voting [by council] required.” 

According to Roell, his IT access was turned off on Thursday, May 18, at the request of Toy. Roell also claimed that “my locks were changed by the director of public service” on Friday, May 19, by another order from Toy. 

Roell also claims that Nelsonville police have denied him entry to non-public spaces in city hall. At 9:44 a.m. Tuesday, Roell sent an email to city council members and Toy stating that he would “be working from home as best I can because when I went to my office today I was denied access to my office space by the Nelsonville Police Department.”

Roell sat at the table with other city officials during Monday’s meeting. 

“I am your city manager and I only have the best interest of the city and community in mind. So, I know [council members] want me to take a seat over there [with the public],” he said. “But I feel if I do that, then I am indicating to [the] council that I don’t want to be city manager, and I have rights as a public employee to rescind my resignation. And if the city council feels strongly enough that they want to fight this then I would recommend that they take it to a higher [official].”

Roell’s statement was met with applause. 

Roell told the Independent Tuesday seeing community members turn out Monday night to support him was “overwhelming,” adding, “The community believes that I’m the right person for the job.”

Sommers resigns — again 

On Monday night also, following legislation, the council formally accepted council member Neil Sommers’ resignation. 

Council member Glennda Tingle moved to fill Sommers’ vacant council seat with Jonathan Flowers, who had expressed interest in a council seat last month.The body ultimately chose to appoint Justin Booth, who previously served on council until resigning in January. 

Dunfee said Sommers’ position needed to be posted online and that the city needs to accept letters of interest for the next three weeks, in time for the next regular council meeting. Then it may appoint its seventh member. 

The council has already received at least two letters of interest: one from Cory W. Taylor, who resigned from council in January, and another from Brooks, key accounts manager at Rocky Brands. 

He and the other trustees of Hocking College currently face a discrimination lawsuit. He recently led an effort to build the new Nelsonville Greyhound Park, in part to displace residents who lived at the park’s location and used federal housing vouchers.

Sommers said Wednesday he resigned for “personal reasons” but is open to returning to the council “when things settle down.” Sommers resigned and rescinded his resignation in April, along with council members Clement and Dunfee. Nick Smith also resigned in April but did not rescind. 

In his statement during Monday’s meeting, Roell implied that Sommers also resigned due to last Monday’s executive session, “because the constant stress that he experienced in this meeting [and] prior meetings.”

Sommers told the Independent he resigned for personal reasons.

Failed motions

Toward the end of the meeting, Dunfee moved that council enter into executive session for “personnel and legal matters.” Booth, Clement and Dunfee voted yes, while Dan Sherman, Nancy Sonick and Tingle voted no. 

Given the 3-3 vote, Dunfee then made a motion to adjourn. Booth, Clement and Dunfee voted yes, while again Sherman, Sonick and Tingle voted no. Dunfee began to walk away but returned. 

Sherman said he wanted to settle the situation with Roell. “I make the motion that we bring Bernie back on board as far as, you know — we never accepted his resignation,” he said.

Tingle added, “We don’t need to bring him back on board because we never accepted his resignation to begin with.” 

Sherman made a motion to return Roell’s keys and computer access, resulting in another 3–3 vote with Booth, Clement and Dunfee voting no, and Sherman, Sonick and Tingle voting yes.

“I was there when he resigned, I was there when he left his keys: No,” Booth said during the return-the-keys vote.

A motion to adjourn then failed again, 3-3: Booth, Clement and Dunfee voted no and Sherman, Sonick and Tingle voted yes.

Dunfee walked out of the meeting and it then adjourned. 

“Tony stomped out furious, because he didn’t get his way,” Tingle told the Independent Monday night. “So we had a split vote as always: Tony, Justin and Greg voted. Tony’s way, and Dan, Nancy and I voted for the good. So, the problem is, and always has been, Tony Dunfee. He needs to be out, out, out!”

On his way out, Booth remarked, “I haven’t been yelled at this much since I coached basketball.”

Additional reporting by Dani Kington.

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

We are interested about hearing news in our community! Let us know what's happening!

Get in touch and share a story!


This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top