Fairborn city manager accused of inappropriate comment against resident


Fairborn City Council is scheduled tonight to discuss accusations that City Manager Deborah McDonnell made inappropriate remarks against a resident — an accusation she strongly denies.

Council will meet at 5:30 p.m., then go into executive session to investigate accusations that were made against McDonnell by residents Matt and Eva Stidham during public comment at Monday night’s city council meeting.

Matt Stidham claims McDonnell told city employees during a private meeting that “(Eva) is a troublemaker. She had a heart attack last year and maybe she will have another one and die.”

“That is a completely false statement. I never said those things,” McDonnell said to the Stidhams. “Whoever told you that is flat-out lying.”

Following Matt Stidham’s accusations, council went into emergency executive session in the middle of Monday’s meeting for about 40 minutes. Mayor Tom Nagel said tonight’s discussion is necessary in order to bring in other people who were not present Monday.

It is unknown if action will be taken after the executive session.

“It depends on the result of the information and what we’re able to establish as fact as opposed to fiction,” Nagel said.

McDonnell — Fairborn’s city manager since May 2007 — said Tuesday she has the “ultimate respect” for the Stidhams.

“That’s why I’m shocked that someone would say I’d wish ill will on her,” she said. “I never would.”

The Stidhams, who live on East Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, alleged McDonnell made the statement in regards to the city potentially making changes to that road. Matt Stidham said those changes would decrease the value of their home by $40,000.

Eva Stidham said she had a stroke last year and has made a 99 percent recovery.

“Mrs. Stidham is one of the finest citizens in Fairborn. She does not tell a lie,” Councilman Jim Hapner said. “I had a private breakfast with a senior staff member, and they verified exactly what Mr. and Mrs. Stidham have accused the city manager of. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of (McDonnell) lying.”

Hapner made the motion to go into executive session, and it was seconded by Councilman Robert Wood. It passed 5-2. Hapner did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Also during public comment, several other residents expressed their displeasure about a city memo dated Aug. 9 related to mediation services in which McDonnell said Fairborn’s “culture is based in Appalachia traditions” and that on “measures of culture,” residents wouldn’t seek to use a mediation service.

“I’m sorry if you were offended, but there was no offense intended,” McDonnell. “I love Fairborn. I didn’t grow up here, but I love it.”

Prior to going into executive session, Wood told McDonnell that “it’s clear, despite your rationalization, you don’t appear to be a good fit in this city.”

“I’m going to recommend that you search the Internet for a new position, contact a realtor and prepare a resignation letter,” he continued.

Wood said Tuesday he stands by what he said.

“If we can bring some closure to divisive statements made by this employee, maybe we can have some healing in our city begin,” Wood said.

Council unanimously approved a four-year contract for McDonnell in May 2012, which included an increase in salary and vehicle allowance.

“By and large, she has done an admirable job as the city manager,” Councilman Dan Kirkpatrick said. “She’s played a major role in the financial soundness of the city. Do I have confidence in Debbie? Yes.”



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