More than five weeks have passed since Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic disinvited Councilman Bob Hoch from his State of the City speech, triggering a very public dispute.
Three weeks have gone by since an Akron councilwoman called for an investigation into the city spokeswoman’s statement that Plusquellic uninvited Hoch because he “didn’t want to get shot in front of his 88-year-old mother.”
In the interim, nothing has been done to address the conflict. No investigation. No apology. And, the two men at the center of the dispute have very different views on whether anything still should be done.
“There is nothing new since you last reported,” city spokeswoman Stephanie York said in an email to a Beacon Journal reporter Monday. “We have moved on to other city business.”
“Everybody’s trying to pretend it’s gone,” Hoch said Monday in an interview. “If you don’t talk about it, it’s not real. I think it’s there.”
Hoch thinks an investigation still is warranted to give him the chance to clear his name. He said he hasn’t spoken to either York or Plusquellic, who has been traveling for work and personal reasons and has been absent from many recent council meetings. Hoch said he is concerned that Plusquellic will turn this around and try to make him look bad. The city already has a conflict-of-interest complaint pending against Hoch with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“The mayor doesn’t like to lose,” said Hoch, who represents Ward 6. “The mayor doesn’t like to be wrong. He was both.”
The week of Plusquellic’s speech, Police Chief James Nice called Hoch and told him he wasn’t welcome at the public event. The 12 other members of council were invited and all attended besides at-large Councilman Mike Williams, who opted to skip it.
York initially told the Beacon Journal that Hoch was asked not to attend because of his recent demeanor at council meetings. She said cabinet members and others told Plusquellic that Hoch said he was going to “get the mayor” and “watch what I do to the mayor” before council meetings in March in which Hoch questioned Plusquellic’s proposal for a new city construction company.
A week later, York sent an email to Akron resident Jack Gover, who was questioning why his council representative was barred from the mayor’s speech, that said, “Frankly the mayor does not have a security detail and he didn’t want to get shot in front of his 88-year-old mother.” York told the Beacon Journal that both she and the mayor genuinely believed in the possibility of a shooting.
Members of council and the community spoke on behalf of Hoch and against his treatment by the administration at the April 6 council meeting. Councilwoman Linda Omobien called for an investigation of Plusquellic’s claim against Hoch, saying she thought it was unfounded.
After the mayor returned from an overseas trip the week of April 20, the Beacon Journal asked York for time with the mayor so that a reporter could ask where the matter stood. There was no response.
The Beacon Journal again requested an interview by phone or in person Monday through an email to York. The response was York’s brief reply that there was nothing new and that the administration had moved on.
During a break between council committee meetings Monday, York appeared irritated when questioned by a Beacon Journal reporter, saying the newspaper’s coverage “bordered on harassment.” She mentioned that the Beacon Journal’s editorial board had suggested it was time to move on.
The Beacon Journal’s editorial board did in fact say in an April 10 editorial that the city should move on, but also suggested that Plusquellic should first admit his mistake and apologize to Hoch.
Hoch said enough time has passed that he’s not sure he’d be receptive to an apology. He thinks Plusquellic violated his oath of office, which requires him to perform his duties “faithfully, honestly and to the best of his ability.” He doesn’t think Plusquellic was truthful about the reason for the disinvitation.
“Nobody was notified of the threat,” said Hoch, who added that he doesn’t own a weapon. “I think the mayor is desperate to save face. That’s why he came up with this.”
Council President Garry Moneypenny, who said during a recent council meeting that he doesn’t think an investigation is warranted, said he’d like to see everyone move beyond this dispute.
“At this point, I think the best we can do is to agree to disagree,” he said. “There’s the mayor’s camp and this camp.”
Moneypenny said the normal clashes between certain council members and Plusquellic or among council members themselves intensify in an election year. This year, for the first time because of a charter change, all 13 council members and the mayor will be on the ballot at the same time.
Plusquellic, already Akron’s longest-serving mayor, hasn’t yet said if he will seek re-election. Hoch plans to run to keep his council seat.
In the meantime, longtime Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff said he is enjoying watching from the sidelines the conflict among the city leaders, who all happen to be Democrats.
“I never thought the fellow in the Sixth Ward was a murderer,” he said. “It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s something.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.