On June 16, a website (thehudsonfiles.com) began a weekly release of city e-mails and confidential documents obtained through public records requests. In the weeks that followed, numerous Hudson residents expressed to me, personally, and on various social media platforms, their concerns about the legality and appropriateness of council members using their taxpayer-funded city resources for personal and political purposes.
On July 7, I asked the city solicitor to comment. The city manager instead publicly offered to have a legal opinion issued. The administration later reneged.
On July 23, I took the step of requesting the auditor of state to investigate what appeared to be “Unauthorized Use of Property” by City Council President William ‘Bill’ Wooldredge for personal and political purposes. Traditional protocols at the city level for investigating and enforcing infractions were not available, in part, because City Manager Jane Howington also serves as the Hudson’s safety director (overseeing the police department, city prosecutor, city solicitor and special counsel) and may herself have committed similar violations.
Central to this issue of unauthorized use of city resources is the recruitment and support, through petitions and financial donations, of a candidate in Hudson’s Ward 4 during the 2019 municipal election. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh endorsed candidate Nicole Davis for this race. While the prosecutor endorsed Davis in her personal capacity and does not appear to have used any official resources in support of the Davis campaign, the fact that Walsh politically supported Davis’ campaign does appear to conflict her ability to impartially investigate whether Wooldredge’s use of his official resources to support Davis’ campaign was appropriate.
I wrote to the auditor because I have a legal, ethical and moral responsibility to the residents of our community to report potential incidents of wrongdoing. I swore an oath as your mayor to uphold the laws of the city, and a neutral, independent investigation by a third party from outside of Hudson was needed to ensure a fair and impartial outcome for Wooldredge and residents on both sides of this issue.
Residents have asked why they should be concerned about this type of e-mail usage. That is a fair question. To date, thousands of e-mails have been released that demonstrate repeated disrespect for the law, which only serves to undermine confidence and trust in city government. These actions must be brought to light and appropriately addressed. I am hopeful the auditor’s office will speedily conclude its look at this matter. Hudson residents deserve a transparent city government with officials who uphold their ethical obligations and I am committed to doing my part to make sure this happens. If you have additional questions about this or any other matter, please reach out to me. I am always accessible and available to explain my decisions or talk about what is going on in our city.