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Council member removed from office sues Huber Heights leaders

Dayton Daily News - 12/31/2019

Dec. 31--Former Huber Heights City Councilwoman Janell Smith has filed a lawsuit alleging that current members and other people conspired to get her recalled and discriminated against her based on her gender and disability.

The suit was filed on Dec. 13. Smith is seeking millions of dollars in damages and a trial by jury.

Each current member of council is named individually and in their capacity as a Huber Heights council member. City Manager Rob Schommer and Mayor Jeff Gore are also named. Councilman Don Webb's wife, Antoinette Webb, is also named in the suit.

Walter Sturgeon, Kimberly Kozlowski, Gerald Gustin and the Huber Heights Ward 2 United for a Better Tomorrow political action committee are also named as defendants.

In the lawsuit, Smith alleges that in June 2018, a political action committee named Huber Heights Ward 2 United for a Better Tomorrow was formed with the sole goal of recalling Smith. Smith alleges that the organizing members of Huber Heights Ward 2 United for a Better Tomorrow were close personal friends of other council members.

Smith alleges that during her time on council, those named in the suit and others conspired to invade her privacy and "place her in a false light and defame her."

Schommer did not respond to a request for comments regarding Smith's lawsuit.

Among other things, Smith alleged problems with Schommer from when he was police chief in Huber Heights that continued when he became city manager and she joined council.

"(Schommer) made it extremely difficult for Smith to successfully serve her constituents," the lawsuit states.

Smith further alleges that the other council members colluded with one another to isolate her.

The suit gives this as an example: Gore changed the seating arrangement for council members, moving Smith from a "more central location on the dais to the end of the dais." This was a problem because Smith has hearing problems in both of her ears, the lawsuit states.

Smith informed council and Law Director Gerald McDonald of her hearing problems, but her seat was not changed.

The law suit alleges that at a National League of Cities (NLC) conference in Washington D.C., her male colleagues on the trip were "constantly unfriendly and/or hostile" to her and attempted to leave her behind at the hotel. Smith states that her requests to go to other NLC conferences were denied.

Smith alleges that this conduct, and other actions mentioned in the suit, were in violation of the city's charter. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants acted wrongly, trying to oust her from her council position, using "surprise duress" and coercion against her.

Smith was on city council from 2016 to 2018, when she was recalled by the voters.

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