December 21, 2014

Elyria
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North Ridgeville mayor says he had no role in daughter’s hiring

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The daughter of Mayor David Gillock worked for the city for two days in the summer of 2011 as a part-time dispatcher for the Police Department.

Police Chief Michael Freeman said he, not Gillock, hired Erica L. Powers, and that the mayor did not influence him. She had worked as a full-time dispatcher for five years prior to Gillock’s election as mayor.

In 2011, she began work June 30 and ended July 3, earning $240.45 for a total of 15 hours of work. She was paid $16.13 an hour, according to city records.

“The mayor has never directed me to or suggested that I hire any individual, to include his daughter,” Freeman wrote in a statement he released. “Erica was hired by me, based upon her skills and work history with the department.

“When someone of Erica’s caliber becomes available, I pursue hiring them,” Freeman wrote. “If Erica was a poor employee during her first stint with NPRD I would not have brought her back, regardless who her father is.”

Questions about Powers’ short employment — and Gillock’s role in it — were raised in an anonymous letter sent to The Chronicle-Telegram.

“We never hid it,” Gillock said. “Salaries of city workers are public record, and some have been printed in the paper. The bottom line is that I had nothing to do with it. The law says I can’t use my public position for the benefit of family members, and I didn’t. She was hired by the chief, and I didn’t even know about it at the time.”

Susan Willeke, spokeswoman for the Ohio Ethics Commission, said a public official can be liable of violating state law prohibiting the employment of relatives if it is proven that official “used their authority through their public position to obtain a public contract (job) for a member of their family.”

Illegal use of that authority would consist of someone ordering or urging officials or heads of other city  departments to employ a family member who was looking for work, Willeke said.

“There has to be evidence this hiring was due to the direct influence of a public official,” Willeke said. “An official has to be completely removed from any influence in the decision-making process.”

It is possible for a relative of a public official to be employed by the same city provided the person hired was employed independently of the official in question.

Freeman, in the statement he prepared that was dated June 19, said he hired Powers because the department desperately needed part-time dispatchers.

“I knew she was looking for a job, but I didn’t know the police were interviewing her until Mike (Freeman) came in and said, ‘Mayor, you should know this,’ and told me he was going to hire her,” Gillock said. “I told him that was fine, but added, ‘Anything you do, work through Jeff (Service Director Jeffry Armbruster). I can’t be involved.’ ”

Powers worked as a full-time police dispatcher from October 1998 until September 2003, when she took a full-time job with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation. Powers was an adult parole officer until being laid off by the state in 2011. She has since gone back to that job, Gillock said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.