Nelsonville City Council voted in a special meeting Thursday to rescind the removal of Council Member Greg Smith from his position, immediately restoring him to council.
Smith was initially removed from council after an administrative hearing in late February, in which the body unanimously found Smith to not be a continuous resident of Nelsonville, but instead a resident of neighboring Washington County.
In March, the body declared Smith not to be a member, which spurred a salvo of court filings and appeals in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas.
The new resolution rescinds the findings of the hearing, and restores him to council. The Athens Messenger reached out to members of council for comment, but was unsuccessful. Council Member Justin Booth and Council Vice President Dan Sherman declined to comment.
Smith told The Athens Messenger he was prepared to return to work as a council member.
“The law is plain — I’m a resident of Nelsonville,” Smith said. “I will be there working.”
However, no court or election authority has verified Smith’s argument that he is a continuous resident of Nelsonville, as court proceedings were underway when Nelsonville Council reinstated him.
The city was originally represented in the appeal by Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Kirk Shaw.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn told The Athens Messenger that when Smith individually sued council members in April, the prosecutor’s office could no longer represent them.
Keller said his office turned the cases over to the city’s insurance-appointed attorney.
Nelsonville City Manager Scott Frank said Columbus-based attorney Tom Spyker appointed by the Public Entities Pool, the city’s insurance, is representing Nelsonville Council.
Spyker declined to comment and directed The Messenger to members of city government for comment.
Smith’s attorney, Dan Klos, of Columbus, said he was “glad” Nelsonville Council “did what they did.”
“Litigation is designed to be outcome-based — we have an outcome — and I will let the outcome speak for itself,” Klos said.
However, he expressed some caution at the move.
“I have no idea what the overall plan of Nelsonville City Council is regarding Mr. Smith,” Klos said.
When asked if Smith expected a hostile work environment upon, he said no.
“I’ve always been about business as usual,” Smith said.
The special meeting was brief, but was interrupted when Council Member Elizabeth Jones abruptly stood up after the resolution was introduced and requested a five minute recess.
She returned to the room moments later, expressing extreme concern with the language of the resolution, saying she was not sure the city had removed Smith from Nelsonville Council via legislation, as the resolution stated.
City Council President Tony Dunfee explained to Jones that the removal was passed via written legal opinion delivered by City Attorney Garry Hunter.
The body amended the language to remove any references to legislation that removed Smith, instead referring to a “vote” by Council.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Dunfee or Jones could not be reached for comment by publication time.
For months, controversy, questions, and deliberation have emerged over whether Smith was a “continuous resident” of Nelsonville, or whether he lives primarily in neighboring Washington County with another family.
Testimony from members of the family in question were presented at the special hearing in February, with members claiming Smith had been living in Washington County for over a decade.
Since the now-rescinded unanimous vote in February, Smith has not been seen at any Nelsonville Council or Committee meetings.
Smith will be granted back pay amounting to $200, the resolution stated.