This story appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 16 newspaper on Page A1.
NELSONVILLE — Members of Nelsonville City Council cast unusual votes Monday evening — for each of themselves to be investigated.
The vote was unanimous.
More unusual is the vote did not specify what the seven members were to be investigated for.
This was all spurred by recent public scrutiny into the conduct of Council President Daniel Sherman. The initial plan going into Monday’s meeting was for the body to consider an independent investigation into just Sherman.
That was a decision by the Judiciary Committee, which met last week. Members of that committee had heard a citizen’s complaint that Sherman violated City Charter in targeting them over a personal matter.
However, Councilman Greg Smith interjected Monday evening with an unexpected request.
“I got accused on Facebook of helping cover something up,” Smith began, giving no specifics. “If there’s going to be an investigation, I want included on being investigated and I think everyone sitting here on Council should be investigated.”
Smith described feeling “aggravated” by the social media criticism and said a formal review would clear his name.
“For that reason, I want whoever investigates to investigate any of my actions and if I did something, I’ll answer it,” Smith said. “But I’m sure I didn’t do anything.”
Smith continued that such a review should be conducted by someone truly “independent,” but then suggested the name of a Columbus investigator he thought should do it.
Councilman Taylor Sappington quickly cut down that idea.
“Isn’t it inherently not independent,” Sappington asked, “if somebody who just suggested they be themselves investigated is suggesting the investigator?”
Sappington expressed concern that this widespread review of all Council members’ actions — rather than a narrow focus of Sherman’s alleged misconduct — would be time consuming and expensive.
Another member, Linda Watkins, said however the broader check would be “only fair.”
In the end, six members unanimously voted to initiate the Council-wide investigation. Councilman Tony Dunfee was not present for the vote.
It was agreed upon that City Attorney Garry Hunter would make the initial contact to County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. From there, the prosecutor’s office could take up the investigation, Hunter said, or Blackburn may recommend a special prosecutor do so instead.