Colerain Township, OH

Colerain Township's 5-year exodus spiraling out of control

The Cincinnati Post
Colerain Township Trustees' meeting without their administrator due to his sudden resignation.Waycross Media, 08/17/2022

About 10 high-ranking public officials in Colerain Township have been fired, forced to resign, or quit in the last 5 years. Last week, Geoff Milz, the township administrator and top dog, is the latest abrupt resignation in a township spiraling out of control due to a lack of leadership.

In 2017, Colerain Township residents sent a clear message to the powers-that-be that the township needed to make changes. When criticism of operations, secrecy, and the retaliation against those speaking up didn't stop - voters made their demands crystal clear and ousted the 2 incumbents, Jeff Ritter and Mike Inderhees, and elected 2 unendorsed residents to the Colerain Board of Trustees hoping for a fresh start.

The newly elected officials and those that succeeded them didn't learn from their predecessors' mistakes.
Residents protest trustees efforts to silence them.Fox 19 News, August 22, 2017

While the names of the trustees changed, Colerain’s management style stayed the same. The division - pitting one neighborhood or organization against another and giving certain organizations special privileges, hostility and retaliation toward residents, and the general lack of progress remain.
The status quo prevailed, in large part, because the newly elected trustees retained their prior legal counsel and most-all of their administrative staff, including promoting Geoff Milz to the township administrator position.

Milz brought a big bag of dirty laundry with him and a huge chip on his shoulder when he signed his contract.

Instead of pursuing reconciliation, Milz and the law director used every tool in their toolbox to pursue a vendetta against any citizen that criticized the township and every frustrated employee who challenged the status quo. Milz, with the acquiesce of the trustees, made unsubstantiated complaints to the health department, the bar association, for code violations, and pursued criminal charges to retaliate against residents. Stephanie Wright, a vigilante litter enforcer with a mission to clean up Colerain, was attacked by Milz on the local news for exposing the illegal dumping in public areas in Colerain. Milz's on air response (See video linked below.):

If you have time to post a picture of litter, you have time to pick it up.
Residents told to go clean up the litter themselves when complaining to news media.A Better Colerain, 2022

It was not beyond Milz to put his bosses - the trustees - in their place as well, as seen here, wherein Milz makes a policy inhibiting trustees' communications with residents and employees. The new policy manual states in part:

[I]ndividual trustees shall not attempt to influence ...staff.

Clearly, prohibiting trustees from talking to their employees has had a detrimental impact on the ability of Colerain to retain employees, especially department managers. Milz set himself up to be the know-all and end-all for information available to elected officials.

The trustees allowed it.

Milz's contract isn't up until December 2022. If he was asked to resign, which is the township's "Plan B" to evade public scrutiny, some employees receive a severance package to essentially "keep their mouths shut" via a nondisclosure agreement, according to numerous past employees. Milz "weaponized" the exit interview process and used the nondisclosure provision to warn staff that if they sign it, it means "we can't talk about you, either." Few refused to sign the resignation form. Milz had no exit interview. If Milz was asked to resign in order to conceal his own untoward conduct in the township, he will receive a full year's compensation.

The trustees refuse to respond to inquiries by The Cincinnati Post nor have they informed the community why Milz has resigned. However, it was days after an officer was fired for inappropriate sexual behavior with a co-worker.

Last week, was the culmination of a 5-year downward spiral evidenced by an unprecedented exodus of staff, a displacement of middle-class residents fleeing the township, and a lack of progress mired by empty promises cloaked in study, after study with little to no action.

The same problems complained of 5 years ago, remain. The stench of Rumpke is worse, the littering - even more prolific, and crime is up despite assertions by retiring Chief of Police Mark Denney.

Milz carried forward the management style of the previous trustees that alienated residents, curbed progress, and infuriated staff. The new trustees and their eventual replacements embraced these tactics, as well. Milz's management style was summarized in his own words:

[T]his job isn’t hard, all I need to do is count to 2.”

When Kathy Mohr, an outspoken resident on issues of transparency and a victor who has proven her claims of public record and open meeting violations in court, once asked him, directly and on the record:

How do you determine what gets on the agenda? “

Milz’s response was the same:

I only have to count to 2... when I get the support of 2 trustees, I put it on the agenda.”

And - that is the problem.

In a township of 60,000 residents with an administrative staff of about 20 and 5 department heads, Milz presumed that all he had to do to be successful was get the votes of 2 trustees. He acted as if he were the mayor, not the administrator. He neither sought nor permitted on-boarding other stakeholders in the process. Staff was prohibited by policy from speaking to trustees. Trustees were prohibited from communicating with staff without permission of the administrator. Residents were not permitted to do presentations at meetings unless the administrator approved it. Decision making was limited to small cliques of select residents and organizations who either will not rock the boat or who are indebted to the administration for their programming.

On top of that, there's 2 problems with this "count to 2" governing mentality. First and foremost, it totally disengages from the residents and, secondly, it's against the law. Public matters are to be deliberated upon in open meetings - not in secret, behind closed doors discussions. It’s a violation of the Open Meetings Act. It’s not transparent – it’s illegal.

The last 5 years has taught residents how to count to 2, also.

  • Last Monday, 2 minutes before the end of the work day, Geoff Milz resigned as the township administrator without any public explanation.
  • That was 2 days after the termination of the 2nd cop in 2 years for sexual misconduct on the job.
  • And, just 2 weeks before, it was revealed that the Assistant Administrator was looking fo his own exit plan via the open Cincinnati Manager position.
  • 2 months prior, Colerain was threatened with yet another lawsuit – one of many. This one for falsifying a police report. (Colerain is one of the most litigious jurisdictions within the region.)
  • In 2 weeks, Mark Denney will retire and hand off his position to an insider well-versed in "Plan B"
  • Before that, after just 2 years with the township, the Parks and Public Works director, Jackie O’Connell abandoned ship – a year later, her position is still vacant.
  • In the 2 years prior to that, Colerain went through the abrupt resignations or firings of 2 Planning Directors, 2 Finance Directors and another Parks & Public Works Director related to issues from "Plan B", to contract steering, to sexual misconduct, to simply being unqualified for their jobs.
  • And, we had 2 elected officials step away from public service after residents exposed malfeasance in office for failing to file appropriate and timely tax reports and the other for violating Ethics Rules and voting on matters in which he had a conflict of interest.

(More details of these resignations can be found here in this "Told Ya So", article.)

In 2 days, Jeff Weckbach will be sworn in as Colerain Township's 2nd administrator in 5 years. With no public input. No nationwide search. No interviews. No public notices. And, certainly, no transparency. The only input the trustees received was from their attorney and Weckbach.

That's not to say Weckbach isn't capable and well-liked by many. However, the majority of residents on social media are simply grateful that Geoff Milz has left the building.

Weckbach's got a tough job ahead of him. It's difficult to harness the spiraling exodus from the township administration building when the trustees, themselves, forfeited their responsibilities and authority to the administrator in the recent township policy revisions. When the trustees signed off on the resolution stripping themselves of the power to lead - to do their jobs - they resigned themselves.

And their exit interview isn't going well for residents.

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