Judge rules former Middletown city manager’s age, race, gender, retaliation claims unfounded

Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins was terminated in 2019.

MIDDLETOWN — A Butler County Commons Pleas judge ruled the city of Middletown was justified in terminating the contract of Doug Adkins, who served as city manager for five years.

Judge Daniel E. Haughey wrote that he found Adkins’ termination wasn’t related to his age, gender, race or for retaliation, according to court documents filed Monday morning.

Adkins sought unknown monetary damages on all four counts.

Adkins’ attorney, Jon Allison from Freking Myers & Reul said he reviewed the judge’s decision and “disagrees.”

So he plans to appeal the decision, he said.

Three years ago, Adkins filed a federal age discrimination complaint against the city. Adkins was removed as city manager by Middletown City Council on Dec. 17, 2019.

Adkins, who was 57 at the time of his termination, worked for Middletown for 14 years as an assistant city prosecutor, city prosecutor and community redevelopment director before his city manager appointment in June 2014.

Following a public outburst at Triple Moon coffee shop on Oct. 2, 2019, council gave Adkins a one-day unpaid suspension on Oct. 24 and ordered him to make a public apology at the Oct. 15 council meeting.

All of the council members testified in deposition that the “brouhaha and other concerns” were the basis of Adkins’ termination, according to the order.

On Nov. 5, council began the termination process of Adkins because of “irreconcilable differences” between council and Adkins “concerning leadership style, and these differences make his continued work as city manager untenable.”

The termination was finalized and Adkins continued to receive severance pay until Feb. 5, 2020.

Adkins alleged that after the City Council election in November 2018, he became a target of newly-elected council member Ami Vitori, who reportedly took the position that older white males in leadership positions were a problem and should be removed, according to court documents.

While Vitori’s comments may evidence a “personal animus” toward older white males, nothing in the record supports Adkins’ claims the city engaged in racial discrimination, Haughey wrote.

Adkins claimed that Vitori maintained a “hit list” of older white males to be targeted for removal from city employment.

While Vitori conceded in her deposition testimony that she maintained a “hit list” of older white males in city government, she also testified she supported the hiring of Adkins as city manager.

Adkins said after his employment ended, the city hired a “significantly younger female,” Susan Cohen, then 39, as acting act manager. The judge determined that Adkins’ duties were re-assigned to Cohen, who also handled her regular duties.

Then the city hired James M. Palenick, a white man three years older than Adkins, as city manager.

Since then, Palenick and the city signed a separation agreement and Paul Lolli, former fire chief, was named city manager. Palenick now works as city manager in Kings Mountain, N.C.

The judge also ruled that Adkins failed to establish a case of retaliation since Vitori couldn’t single-handedly cause his dismissal.

Adkins and Vitori were unavailable for comment.

About the Author