It seems to me that one of the features of this column is that I answer readers’ comments, questions and complaints either directly to the individual or possibly in print and I see no reason to change that practice. The reason this has come up is a phone conversation I had recently with one of the individuals involved in the turmoil surrounding a proposed redevelopment of the Xenia Towne Square some year and a half ago. He strongly insisted my interests would be best served if I “man up” and “tell the truth” about the situation and specifically referenced my March 3, 2015 column. I told him I would revisit the subject now that new information has become available and would decide my course of action once I had examined it. Here are the results of my review of that new information and of the referenced column.
In my March 3, 2015 column, which I titled “Avoid the appearance of evil,” I wrote “For some time civic and business leaders of our county seat have been working on plans to revitalize downtown Xenia, in particular the Towne Square. “The city recently announced multi-million dollar plans for redeveloping the Towne Square that include a family entertainment center and a multi-screen movie theater. Sounds good, right? But questions have arisen because two members of the Xenia City Council suddenly and unexpectedly announced they have investments in these enterprises and have taken management positions with the developer.
Furthermore, a spokesperson for the developer acknowledged the two councilmen had been approached several months prior to their announcement about accepting management positions with the company so this had been in the works for some time. A perfect set-up for the “Something’s rotten in Xenia” hue and cry or as one person told me, ‘This doesn’t pass the “sniff test” – it just doesn’t smell right.’ ” This certainly was true as there was great public consternation about the situation.
Well, the issue eventually went to the Ohio Ethics Commission; the results of its inquiry have come out; and I have just reviewed their report. The commission found insufficient evidence to support violations of the ethics laws. It concluded neither of the council members accepted the positions offered by the developers and found no evidence that either, as council members, participated in matters the developers may have had before the city during the time the potential employment was discussed. The final summation stated there was insufficient evidence to support a violation of any of the ethics laws or related statutes and the commission considers the case closed.
OK, let’s look some more at my column. One of the most important themes of that March 3, 2015 column was the following: “Back when I was drawing a paycheck I, as did many of my colleagues, received training and constant reminders about ethical aspects of our positions. Perhaps the most practical and simplest advice was, “Avoid the appearance of evil.” The reason this basic saying was so valuable then and remains so today is that a person’s actions are interpreted by those observing or hearing about the behavior.
I know of cases where individuals were suspected of some ethical or legal trespass based on claims of “the appearance of evil” in the minds of some. The ensuing investigations proved the individuals were innocent, but they were still permanently tainted by the inquiry and the stigma never went away.” That observation was valid when I wrote it and remains valid today.
A second observation I made in this column was, “I have no idea how this episode will be resolved, that is, what the results of any inquiry by the Ohio Ethics Commission might be, but the actions of these two individuals will likely have a long term effect on the trust folks in Xenia have in their elected officials. Even if the Ethics Commission “clears” the councilmen the rejuvenation plans for downtown Xenia might well be so tarnished in the minds of folks in Xenia that support for the scheme might fade away. And that would be tragic after all the hard work done by so many to help restore the downtown area.” True then, true now.
A third point I made was, “One of the saddest aspects of this sorry affair is the effect it is having and will continue to have on the two councilmen and their families. These men are well known in this area not only as businessmen but because of their long-time involvement in civic activities.” True then, true now.
Well, there you have it – another of my updates on something I have written when new information on the subject has emerged – even if some year and a half has passed since the original column. But that’s what readers expect. At least that’s how it seems to me.