Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic got into a shoving match with Councilman Russel Neal Jr. after the swearing-in ceremony for council members Monday night.
Each man blames the other for the tussle.
Plusquellic says Neal was the aggressor and that he was defending himself after Neal blocked him from leaving the council lounge and pushed him when he tried to open the door. He said he put his hands on Neal’s shoulders and moved him away from the door.
The two then began shoving each other back and forth until Council President Garry Moneypenny and other city officials separated them.
“I was walking away,” Plusquellic told the Beacon Journal on Tuesday. “There is not a single thing I did wrong.”
Plusquellic said he left and went to dinner. He said some people have said he punched Neal, which isn’t true.
Neal says he didn’t shove the mayor first.
“I have been in this community for most of my life,” said Neal, who was elected in November to his second term as the Ward 4 councilman. “My reputation speaks for itself. I have been in all kinds of discussions and you would never hear of anyone attacking me physically.”
Neal wasn’t pleased when he heard Plusquellic’s version of the events or that the mayor discussed what happened with the Beacon Journal.
“It’s disheartening,” said Neal, adding that he had limited time to talk because of work demands at his company. He owns Graffitti Print Shop in North Hill.
Neither man was injured during the incident. Three police officers were stationed at City Hall to provide security for the council meeting at 5 p.m. and swearing-in ceremony at 7 p.m. They were not aware of what happened, police Lt. Rick Edwards said.
“I don’t think either one approached the officers and asked,” Edwards said. “There was no intervention by the officers working the council meeting.”
A police report has not been filed.
Plusquellic, who marked his 40th year in service to the city Tuesday, said he has exchanged heated words with council members but has never before had a physical altercation.
The mayor said the scuffle with Neal began after the two had a heated discussion related to some remarks Neal made during the swearing-in ceremony. The mayor said Neal also questioned whether Plusquellic had a hand in picking the council’s committee appointments for the coming year.
Plusquellic said he did not.
The mayor said he told Neal he was “just like everybody had told him,” and Neal wanted to know who had been talking about him. The mayor said he refused to tell him, and when Neal wouldn’t let him leave the council lounge, the shoving ensued.
Plusquellic said he expects that some people will think he was to blame, no matter what he says. He said he figures that about 28 percent of Akron residents dislike him and always will.
“If I lost it, I would completely own up and say, ‘I lost my temper,’ ” said Plusquellic, who once made headlines for cursing at a downtown parking lot attendant and had him fired. “That’s not what happened.”
Moneypenny, who was in law enforcement for 37 years, said that when Neal and Plusquellic got into a heated discussion in council chambers, he asked them to take it into a back room. He said Plusquellic said he was done talking and walked into the lounge, followed by Neal. Moneypenny said he went into the lounge and saw Plusquellic attempting to open the door to go into the clerk’s office, while Neal was trying to keep it shut. He said a shoving match then started.
“I can’t say who shoved who first,” Moneypenny said.
Moneypenny said he got in between Plusquellic and Neal and kept saying, “Everybody, be smart.” He and others were able to break up the two, and Plusquellic left.
“I didn’t see anything that constitutes assault,” Moneypenny said. “It was a struggle over a door.”
Moneypenny is attempting to arrange a face-to-face meeting between Plusquellic and Neal. Both have said they are willing to meet, but a date hasn’t been set.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.