Former New Miami mayor returns as councilman after resignation

Bob Henley
Bob Henley

Former New Miami Mayor Bob Henley is back on village council by a unanimous vote of his former allies, after a resignation prompted the vacancy.

The council seat opened when Megan Horn resigned earlier this month after losing a court battle to have a previous felony conviction expunged. Elected officials cannot serve with felonies on their record.

“I can’t say I’m happy about the way things turned out, but I’m glad I got back on council,” Henley said.

Horn was indicted for felony theft and forgery in September 2009. She pleaded guilty to forgery and was ordered to pay $473.28 in restitution to Walmart plus a $250 fine and court costs. Unless an elected official can get their record scrubbed they cannot serve in elected office.

Horn tried to convince Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens to erase her criminal record. He refused, because he said she lied on her application for an expungement when she answered “yes” to a question about whether all her restitution, fines and court costs have been paid.

Mayor Stephanie Chandler said the village received four applications for the open position.

RELATED: Two applications filed for New Miami council after member’s resignation

“They all voted on who they would like to appoint, and Bob was unanimous,” Chandler said about the vote last Thursday.

Henley was not Chandler’s choice, but she would not have had a voice in the matter unless the council failed to act within 30 days of the resignation. She said she spoke to Henley — whom she beat in the November election by a 63 to 37 percent margin — and she trusts they can work together.

“Council has been very supportive so far since I’ve taken office,” Chandler said. “I’m hoping that we can all work together for the better of the village. His experience in office will be helpful. We’re looking forward to working together to see what we can accomplish.”

In the tiny village of about 2,250 residents, only 220 people cast ballots in the Nov. 5 election. Henley has been on the village council in some capacity since 2008, and he resigned after his defeat over frustration about what people said about him during the election. He said at the time he wanted to return to the council.

“There was comments that I’ve been up there for this long and I haven’t done anything. You’ve got to look at the financial situation, what more could we do with what we have,” Henley said at the time.

He too said he’s willing to let go of the past.

“I told her after the last meeting if she needed any help or advice or anything like that just let me know,” Henley said. “I don’t have a choice but to work with her. I’ll still speak my mind if I disagree with things, that’s what we’re up there for.”

Chandler and Horn had hoped together to get the village out of the costly lawsuit it has been fighting over speed cameras. New Miami was sued by a large group of drivers who were fined by the village’s speed camera program that was later ruled unconstitutional. A judge has ruled the speeders were owed $3.4 million. The fight has cost village taxpayers more than $360,000 in attorneys’ fees.

There are now two speed camera lawsuits pending. The original case is before the 12th District Court of Appeals, scheduled for an oral argument on March 9. Another is a motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the state over new laws that have stopped the cameras from rolling. The motion has been stalled in the common pleas court since last fall.

“I’ve not really changed my mind,” Chandler said. “But I don’t see them going away if the judge rules in (the village’s) favor. But I would hope it would be a temporary thing, I don’t want the notoriety of the village to be because of traffic cameras.”

Henley said previously that New Miami tried to settle the case several years ago, but the village couldn’t afford what the speeders demanded. Even if the village loses all appeals Henley said the outcome would be better than settling.

“Hypothetically, if we lose everything, all is said and done, all appeals everything is over with, we’ve got 10 years to pay it back,” Henley said. “You settle this one at some exorbitant amount, you don’t have 10 years to pay it back, where is that money coming from?”