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Fired Code Enforcement Supervisor Addresses Covington City Commission

UPDATE (Thursday 4:30 p.m.): The Covington City Commission will meet on Friday to vote on Weissman's termination again. An executive session has been called for 1 p.m. with a special legislative session to follow immediately after.

UPDATE (10:26 a.m.): Assistant City Manager and City Solicitor Frank Warnock does not believe the employee was fired by the 2-0 vote (with 2 abstentions) due to a lack of majority.

"I anticipate the issue will be addressed again," Warnock told The River City News. "There is no 'hearing' per se. The city manager prepares the agenda and the commission votes on the issue. The city commission as a body as a whole is the executive authority of the city."

ORIGINAL POST:

When a city employee is fired, the move must be approved by the city commission.

Typically when this happens, the issue appears on the agenda and is quietly approved without much, if any, discussion because most of the conversation already took place in an executive session behind closed doors.

The termination of Covington code enforcement supervisor Tony Weissman on Tuesday night was a rarity.

Not only was there much discussion on the dais by commissioners and administrators, but Weissman himself was present and also took a turn to talk.

Though City Manager Larry Klein said that the issue of Weissman's employment was discussed at an executive session on Monday, the supervisor's presence triggered a lengthy discussion in public, broadcast on the government cable channel.

"Tony is here tonight," Assistant City Manager and City Solicitor Frank Warnock said. "Tony served in his position for about a year and he came in with the new code enforcement system. I think a lot of people recognized that the program has been relatively successful and moved the city forward on a lot of fronts and I'm hopeful that Tony can go forward with a bright future that will be good for him."

Weissman was hired in December 2012 as the code enforcement supervisor following the restructuring of that department that saw its previous manager laid off and most of its positions reduced to part-time. Weissman was selected over 120 applicants, The River City News reported at the time. He arrived with experience as a project manager, building inspector, and served as a consultant to the Ohio Department of Transportation. His first task was to oversee the first round of demolitions of blighted city-owned properties.

What led to his termination was not directly addressed.

"I have nothing against Tony. I like him personally. He is a character you come to like but he's not a good fit for our department that we need right now," Mayor Sherry Carran said.

She and Commissioner Chuck Eilerman voted in favor of the termination while Commissioners Steve Frank and Michelle Williams abstained. Commissioner Mildred Rains was not present.

"This is a tough one," Frank said. "I've heard both sides and actual specifics. Usually when we've had these types of issues you have some sort of adjudication so to some extent this is in a vacuum."

Weissman's position was not protected by any union.

"I've talked to Tony, I've talked to other people," Frank continued. "A lot of people seem to feel that this is in order."

Following the 2-0 vote, which seemed to indicate that Weissman was terminated but The River City News is awaiting clarification from Warnock, Weissman took to the podium, his arm in a sling from a recent injury.

"I've had twenty-five years of doing what I do and I do it damn good," Weissman said. "I have never been in this position before in my life. What the fuck happened? Excuse my French. I'm a little upset. I'm a little irate."

"I came here a year ago to do a job."
 
Weissman said that he worked well within his own department and that his own staff threatened to resign over his impending firing. He worked well with police and fire, he said. He got to know Covington better than anyone on the commission, he said.
 
He was injured in a vacant building on Fifteenth Street in October and had surgery in January, he said, and his employee evaluation was done in December just before the holidays.
 
"I've been off work four weeks. I spent six hours at St. E today. You fired me last Thursday. Told me to come in for an important staff meeting," Weissman said. "That's how I was shat upon."
 
"I'm sure what happened wasn't an easy decision here," Weissman continued. "I haven't done anything illegal, immoral, or unjust to anyone here or in that city out there."
 
"I brought to you a program that is working. They work and they are legal. They might be a little questionable on ethics but I did not cross an ethical line, ever."
 
"I owe you an apology, Tony," Williams said. "Most of the time I do all the research and I really didn't talk to you and I don't think that was fair."
 
"Usually when we do a hire, there's a probation period," Mayor Carran said. "Tony's been here a year. I really don't like getting into this discussion. We had an executive session (Monday) where these questions could have been asked. I don't think it's fair to bring a lot of this out in a public format because I don't like saying these things about Tony to the public."
 
"There's been issues that started six months ago with staff doing reviews with him. It has not worked out. It's not a good fit for the department. Staff is recommending for the health of the city and the department that we do this."
 
Weissman will pursue his legal options and called the move "a slap in the face". "It's been a hard five days for many reasons," Weissman said. "I am extremely upset with the way this was handled. I suggest in the future you never do this again. This is the most short-sighted shafting anyone in any profession has ever received."
 
Story by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
 
Photo: Tony Weissman/RCN