At the December 19, 2017 City Council meeting, former City Council member, Donna Messinger requested the City Council investigate the ethics complaint she filed a year before on December 23, 2016 against Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh, Mayor O’Donnell and City Council members Spirito and Kroll. When she first requested an investigation at the January 17, 2017 council meeting, Mayor O’Donnell told her due to a legal opinion by the city attorney, the complaint could not be addressed until the Ray Kirkus Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) lawsuit was resolved. O’Donnell went on to publicly state that he believed the ethics complaint against him was “frivolous” although he authorized $10,000 for an investigation of a truly baseless and frivolous ethics complaint filed by Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh against then Police Chief Larry Pitchford.
Although Ashbaugh didn’t want two public surveillance videos to become public, one that revealed that he spoke about a co-worker shooting Messinger at a council meeting, the videos were made public in October 2017. Based on O’Donnell’s promise to address her ethics complaint once the FOIA lawsuit was settled, Messinger in good faith again requested an investigation a year after the infraction took place. She heard nothing from the mayor or any of the four council members who didn’t bother to discuss the issue or contact Messinger. This is truly disrespectful after stringing her on for a year, leading her on to believe they would investigate it. It appears that a street supervisor’s concern about public videos becoming public is more important to the mayor and council members than a woman worried about violence against her. Let’s face it, the mayor and council members have realized they can ignore the concerns and issues of the public, protect the inappropriate behavior of employees and only focus on the issues their supporters care about. Although Section D of the Code of Ethics ordinance states a public official shall treat all members of the public with professional courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality, it appears none of the council members worry about their own ethics as long as their base supports them.
Below is the request made by former City Council member Donna Messinger. Attached is her original ethics complaint. Donna Messinger’s Ethics Complaint
December 19, 2017
TO: Mayor Lou O’Donnell, Council members Ennis, Robertson, Spirito, and Kroll
At the January 17, 2017 New Buffalo City Council meeting, I requested my December 23, 2016 ethics complaint be addressed. Mayor Lou O’Donnell stated that the Council was advised by its attorneys not to comment on this complaint until Mr. Kirkus’ Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was resolved. Mayor O’Donnell further stated that he believed my complaint to be ‘frivolous’. Because the Mayor’s opinion led to the Council not seriously considering a violent threat voiced by a male employee against the only female council member, it is now being investigated by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Although Mayor O’Donnell assured Council member Ennis that I was told that city attorneys had advised the Mayor not to address my complaint until Mr. Kirkus’ lawsuit was resolved, I never received any such communication. I request copies of that communication and copies of the opinions from the attorneys that advised the Council not to address my complaint until after the lawsuit was resolved. I don’t believe they exist.
The Council members are ethically obligated to review the statement made by Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh concerning me. This statement can be found on the Sunday, August 7, 2016 public audio surveillance recording in city hall at 9:55 am when Mr. Ashbaugh used the key to the file cabinet in the front office to access a psychological evaluation in the personnel file of Diana (Selir), a female employee. Then he stated ‘Hey Donna, when you’re bitching at council meetings, do you ever worry about Diana shooting you? It’s okay, she’s sane!’ (Laughter) At 14:27:26, Mr. Ashaugh said to Debra Lambrix who was also working in the office, ‘So they can listen in on us huh?’ and she replied, ‘uh-huh.’ Mr. Ashbaugh responded ‘if you’re listening, kiss my ass.’ Given that Mr. Ashbaugh understood that city officials could listen to the recorded conversation through electronic recording, I continue to contend that instead of trying to cover for a male employee’s inappropriate language concerning a female official, the Council had an obligation to address it at the time. My attached complaint still stands and I request it be resolved through the termination of the male employee because I don’t think it was frivolous nor was it innocent ‘locker talk.’