Taylor back on Nelsonville City Council

Following the failure to appoint one of three candidates last week, Nelsonville City Council President Tony Dunfee has appointed Cory Taylor to fill the council’s seventh and final seat. He was sworn in on Tuesday.
A sign for Nelsonville City Hall, and the building's exterior.
Nelsonville City Hall. Photo by Dani Kington.

NELSONVILLE, Ohio — Nelsonville City Council President Tony Dunfee has appointed Cory W. Taylor to fill the council’s seventh and final seat, according to an email provided by Taylor. He was sworn in at a special meeting on Tuesday night.

Taylor’s appointment followed weeks of split votes on whom to appoint, most recently at the council’s regular meeting on Monday, June 12. 

Nelsonville City Charter states that if council fails to fill a council vacancy within 30 days, the council president may make an appointment within 15 days of council’s failure to do so. 


Taylor is the second former member to return to council in recent months; Justin Booth rejoined council in May. Both resigned in January, following the exit of former city manager Scott Frank

The June 12 meeting began with council interviewing three candidates: Rocky Boots employee and Hocking College trustee Stuart Brooks; Jonathan Flowers, who previously was interviewed in May for the seat that went to Booth; and Taylor. 

As with other recent votes, like earlier this month, council split 3-3 between two apparent voting blocs: one comprising members Dan Sherman, Nancy Sonick and Glennda Tingle, and the second composed of council members Justin Booth, Gregg Clement and Tony Dunfee.

Sherman, Sonick and Tingle voted to appoint Brooks, while Booth, Clement and Dunfee voted to appoint Taylor. Flowers’ application was not voted on; Flowers said he is running for a seat in the fall. 

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Candidate interviews

Tingle asked Taylor why he resigned in January. Taylor responded that he resigned “because you got people that are undermining the everyday authority of a city manager.” He spoke highly of Frank, saying that “the reality is he was getting more done in that three-year period than any other city manager.” Taylor left because of “collusion and corruption in the city,” he said.

Taylor also said he wants to make more of an impact and help “right the ship.” He will not seek election in the fall, he said.

Sherman asked Taylor how he plans to “repair your relationship with the fire department.”

Taylor said that he believes Nelsonville Fire Department Chief Harry Barber is “not necessarily doing the best job that he’s potentially capable of doing,” a statement that was met with audible disagreement from the crowd of about 30 community members and city employees. Dunfee then called order.

In Flowers’ interview, he expressed wanting to see the return of former city manager Bernie Roell. Clement also asked Flowers if he had any personal or business conflicts in serving on the council. Flowers responded, “If you’re referring to our Greyhound Park, I’m so proud of that park. I’ll defend it to the day I die.”

The Athens Messenger reported in 2021 that tenants receiving U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development vouchers were forced from their homes to make way for the park. Flowers helped lead the development of the park, according to his posts in a Nelsonville Facebook group.

Brooks also expressed pride in the project, which he helped lead. He described the former tenants at the property as “nothing but trash living there.” 

Brooks spoke at length in his council interview about his past contributions to the city, such as founding the Nelsonville Scenic Railroad, and his connections to the city’s movers-and-shakers, such as the Edwards family and the Baird Foundation. His father, Brooks said, served on council for more than three decades.

He also assured council members that he lives in Nelsonville, despite owning condos in central Ohio and Florida. Brooks said he is often asked, ‘What the hell is going on with your town?’ … We’re just sitting here and we’re the laughingstock of southern Ohio.”

Brooks did not express interest in running for a council seat in November.

Clement asked each candidate if they believe compromise is a weakness or strength, to which all said they believe it is a strength. 

Response to Brooks’ remarks

Brooks’ comments about the former residents of the Greyhound Park site prompted Nelsonville interim Police Chief and acting City Manager Devon Tolliver (who has served in the position on and off for the past six months) to issue a statement to the Independent. Excerpts from his comments: 

The vast majority of citizens of Nelsonville work hard for what they have, most people in this community have been dealt a terrible hand when it comes to starting life but continue to press on. 

To say Nelsonville is not for people who require financial assistance in order to have a home, rent something small, or can only afford a manufactured home is enraging to me. I grew up in a single parent home, living in trailers, requiring financial assistance to get by. 

Nelsonville is for anyone willing to work to better themselves, there are countless success stories of people from Nelsonville starting life with nothing and becoming something, at least in our small pocket of Southeast Ohio. 

Instead, some individuals are pushing that people who are struggling to get by are the problem and that they should be run out of town. Their houses need to be bought up and destroyed because they’re such a blight on our community. 

A City Manager attempted to help someone struggling with homelessness and another middle-class family who had to temporarily place a trailer on their property. She was denounced the whole way, publicly criticized for her decision to give a working-class family a break on an issue that affected only them. 

It’s a struggle for most people to own a decent car with the state of the current economy, let alone own a home here. Giving someone a break can make all the difference around here and shows a level of human compassion Nelsonville needs more of. If this city isn’t for the lower-class, the middle-class, people like me, then who is it really for? Who stands to benefit from that?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 31.3% of Nelsonville’s 4,319 residents were living below the poverty line in 2021 — 25% higher than that for the Athens micropolitan area overall and more than double the state’s poverty rate. Nelsonville’s per capita income is $17,448 and its median household income is $34,128. 

Athens County is known for its high poverty rate — historically and currently the highest in the state, at 20.9%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Roell regrets resignation 

The June 12 meeting again returned to the topic of Roell’s resignation and attempted rescission

Roell spoke not as a citizen, but during business and organizational comments. 

Roell cited the city’s inconsistency with resignations and rescissions in the past. 

“I guess the question I have is, why? Why was nothing done to accept my rescinding of my resignation?” Roell said. “Why was a council meeting not called immediately after getting the legal opinion from Bob Toy to make a decision on his legal affairs? It is a legal opinion that council can talk about and then make a decision on it. It doesn’t have to be acted on.”

Roell, like community members in the citizens’ comments section, was allotted three minutes to speak. He initially refused to cease his comments, until City Attorney K. Robert Toy said Roell could be removed under Ohio Revised Code Section 2917.12, which would result in a criminal charge.

“You’re not special Mr. Roell. You’re not a citizen, we let you speak, you’ve had three minutes, you’re done,” Toy said. “Sit down so you don’t have to disturb a public meeting.” Roell sat down. His attempt to speak was met with applause.

Roell told the Independent on June 15 that he’s been trying to contact the Ohio Attorney General and has spoken with a “lead investigator.” The Independent contacted the attorney general’s office to confirm this statement, but has not received a reply. Roell also said that the AG’s office advised him to contact the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office; he said has not not, because county prosecutor Keller Blackburn is Dunfee’s brother-in-law.

Roell gave the Independent the full statement that he was prevented from reading in its entirety June 12.

Nelsonville City Council meets every other Monday of each month. Its next regular meeting will be Monday, June 26 at 7 p.m. in Nelsonville City Council Chambers, 211 Lake Hope Drive. Meetings are also livestreamed on YouTube. Find more at cityofnelsonville.com.

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 info@athensindependent.com.

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