By Frank Lewis
September 12, 2013
Frank Lewis and Bob Strickley
PDT Staff Writers
Derek Keith Allen, the village administrator for the village of Delta, Ohio, will become the city of Portsmouth’s first city manager since 1987. Allen was offered the position on Wednesday after three exhaustive days of meetings between City Council and three finalists - the other two being Williamsburg, Ohio Village Administrator Patti Bates, and former Rawlins, Wyoming City Manager Steve Golnar.
President of Portsmouth City Council Steve Sturgill said after a thorough vetting of the three finalists, interviews were conducted this week in a special session of Portsmouth City Council. And he said Council has agreed in principle to an employment agreement with Allen that will be presented at the Sept. 23, 2013 regularly scheduled Portsmouth City Council meeting. After a request for the salary figure for the new position, Sturgill responded those numbers would be available when the contract is presented during the Sept. 23 council meeting.
“Our announcement is being made at this time to give Mr. Allen enough time to complete his contractual agreement with his current employer and assist Delta, Ohio with their search for his replacement,” Sturgill said. “He will will begin his duties in Portsmouth, Ohio on Jan. 1, 2014.”
On his resume, Allen listed among his accomplishments turning around a financially struggling community during a strong national recession. Earlier in the week, several members of Portsmouth City Council expressed a desire for such a city manager, since the city has been placed in Fiscal Watch status by the Auditor of State’s office and is operating with a deficit budget, which is not legal in the state of Ohio.
His resume also lists as accomplishments as reducing audit citations and the elimination of Ohio EPA violations at the Water Treatment and Wastewater Treatment plants. Allen reported in his resume that he retired four loans and performed infrastructure repairs without issuing further long term debt; improved the financial situation in the Water Fund from near bankruptcy to solvency in three years, and successfully renegotiated the water contract with the village’s largest water consumer from a 20-year contract with a low locked in rate to a water rate comparable to today’s prices.
Allen’s resume said he restructured the entire financial system of budgeting cost accounting and utility billing, including discovery and correction of $92,420 of utility over-billing to the village’s two largest utility customers.
“I think the Council has made the right decision for the city of Portsmouth,” Sturgill said. “I think that his credentials are just exactly what we need at this time, and he will do a very good job addressing all of the issues that we need to have addressed.”
Sturgill said the the position will be introduced as a resolution, but that resolution will most likely go through three readings, which will leave plenty of time before Allen must assume his duties on Jan. 1, 2014.
Questions arose this week concerning a legal situation Allen faced nine years ago.
According to a story in the Celina, Ohio newspaper, The Daily Standard, dated Oct. 2, 2004, “Former Celina Safety-Service Director Derek Allen received a $250 fine and a suspended 90-day jail sentence in Miami County Municipal Court in Piqua (Ohio) on Sept. 24 for a count of dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.”
The story goes on to say, “Allen, who was serving in Piqua as assistant city manager, was terminated immediately after being found guilty of the charge on Aug. 13. Allen’s jail sentence was suspended after he agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation concerning the sale of $160,000 of stone to the Piqua Park Department for a bike path. The stone was sold without using the bidding process. It was later discovered that Robert DeBrosse, the Piqua mayor, is a sales representative at Piqua Materials, whre the stone was purchased.”
The story quotes DeBrosse, “I caught the oversight myself, but the project was already three-fourths complete by the time it was caught. He (Allen) screwed up because he should have bid the project out, but where he got into trouble more was when he lied and tried to cover it up. It ended up making me look bad. I am paid a straight salary without commission, so I made the same amount of money whether the stone was sold or not.”
DeBrosse went on to say, “It is unfortunate that he (Allen) was caught up in someone else’s personal vendetta.”
According to the story, “Allen was hired as Celina safety service director by former Mayor Paul Arnold after Arnold won the mayor’s seat in the November 1999 election. Allen had left Van Wert as safety service director after being named as a defendant in two civil lawsuits. He worked in Celina until March 2001, when he was fired by Arnold after months of controversy.”
According to Sturgill, City Council was well aware of the story early in the selection process due to Novak Consulting’s background checks and Allen’s own candid admission of his involvement in the situation.
“He was very candid, very honest and forthright about it and we are not overly concerned about that issue at this time,” Sturgill said.
Another story appeared in the Dayton Daily News, dated Sept. 10, 2004, about R. Mark Rohr, Piqua’s city manager for six years, who had taken a job as city manager in Joplin, Mo. In that story is a paragraph that reads, “Rohr fired city manager Derek Allen last month after Allen pleaded to misdemeanor dereliction of duty in a plea deal with prosecutors investigating improprieties in the purchase of gravel for a city project.”
Sturgill said City Council was comfortable with its decision after spending a significant amount of time discussing the past with Allen.
“We think we understand what happened and we were very happy with his honesty about it,” Sturgill said.
A call to Allen’s cell phone Thursday was not immediately returned to the Daily Times.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT. Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Bob on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr.