Hudson mayor asks state to investigate council president's email

Alleges discussion of campaigns violated law

PHIL KEREN Reporter

HUDSON — The mayor is asking the Auditor of State’s Office to investigate whether the City Council president violated state law when using his council email account. He is also accusing the city manager of “similar violations.”

City Council President Bill Wooldredge said he has not done anything to warrant the state taking action against him.

“I have not engaged in conduct of any kind that would warrant any action against me by the state auditor’s office,” Wooldredge said in a prepared statement.

When asked Monday if City Manager Jane Howington would comment on the issue, city spokesperson Jody Roberts said the city “takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously,” and added city officials are “currently reviewing the mayor’s letter.”

Mayor Craig Shubert last week submitted a formal complaint to the auditor of state’s office alleging “unauthorized use of property” by Wooldredge.

Allison Dumski, press secretary for the Auditor of State, said her office received Shubert’s complaint and is reviewing it “to determine if it falls within our jurisdiction.”

Wooldredge said he has not received correspondence from either the auditor’s office or another public agency dealing with the use of his city email account, the subject of Shubert’s allegations.

“If I receive such contact, I will respond appropriately,” said Wooldredge.

In his letter to the auditor, Shubert referred to emails and documents posted by a the citizens group Hudson Community Coalition at www.thehudsonfiles.com. He said some documents allegedly show that Wooldredge may have committed “theft in office,” which he said could rise to the level of a “fifth-degree felony.”

The website is meant “to increase transparency and public accountability in Hudson’s municipal government,” according to the coalition, which is a community partnership between two local grassroots groups, the Hudson Environmental Council, LLC and Hudson’s Voice, LLC.

Shubert said Wooldredge’s email correspondence “appear to be a violation” of the city’s administrative code and personnel policies dealing with city-owned IT networks and equipment. 

The mayor said his complaint includes 10 exhibits he collected from The Hudson Files website.

Among these exhibits are an email from Wooldredge to council candidate Nicole Kowalski telling her he would sign her nomination petition and donate to her campaign; an email string among Wooldredge, Kowalski and Nicole Davis where they set up a meeting to discuss Davis’ plan to run for council; and an email string between Wooldredge and Davis where Wooldredge said he will help Davis with her campaign.

Shubert wrote he wanted the auditor to investigate because he felt protocols for “investigating and enforcing infractions will not be followed, in part, because City Manager Jane Howington also serves as the city’s safety director, and may herself have committed similar violations.”

Shubert referred to an email exchange involving Howington “whereby she allegedly used her taxpayer-funded e-mail account to express her political support for a 2019 city council candidate,” which he said would be a violation of managerial ethics and city policy.

Shubert asked City Solicitor Matt Vazzana at the council meeting July 7 if it was appropriate for council members to use their council email account “for personal and political matters outside of official government business.”

Howington suggested Vazzana write a legal opinion on the issue, but has since “reneged on that public offer,” Shubert wrote.

Shubert also told the auditor he felt the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office could not impartially investigate the case because Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh endorsed Davis in a city council race last fall.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.