Former Oak Harbor mayor pro tem Beth Munns has publicly released the human resources investigation into an alleged threat she made to City Administrator Blaine Oborn on June 8.
Munns had previously stated there was a conflict of interest with the city’s human resources department conducting the investigation due to the fact that the department’s director, Emma House, was also included in the alleged threat.
Munns allegedly told Oborn that he and House would be hit or slapped if they attended the memorial service of a city employee who died unexpectedly. As a result, city council voted to strip Munns of her title as mayor pro tem and replaced her with Tara Hizon. Munns now serves as a council member.
The investigation was conducted by Liflor Barrera, a human resources generalist for the city of Oak Harbor. In a statement from Mayor Bob Severns, he said that the city attorney was involved in the investigation to confirm that legal requirements were met objectively and Barrera did not provide updates or involve House or Oborn during the investigative process. Severns said that conducting the investigation internally decreased the costs and past outside investigations cost the city around $20,000. Severns said the city council still has the power to decide to conduct an external investigation.
The investigation report stated that “an infraction on the employment rights of city administrator Blaine Oborn and Emma House has been committed under the Federal, State, and City ordinances and guidelines.” According to the report, “a breach of duty of an elected official took place.”
The report also recounted the conversation in question. In the report, Oborn was quoted as saying that former Public Works Director Cathy Rosen was the only person he thought would threaten him at the memorial service, and that after his conversation with Munns, he was “worried for his job and safety.”
Police Chief Kevin Dresker determined that no criminal conduct had taken place and a lawyer with the firm Oak Harbor contracts with said there was no prosecutable crime as the “comment was general in nature and not specific.”
Oborn then reported the incident to Barrera under the workplace violence section of the city employee policy manual, according to an email sent from Oborn included in the investigation’s documents.
“This is an employee relations issue; therefore it is only correct that I based my investigation on the employment rights law,” Barrera wrote in the report.
Barrera met with House, who described Oborn as “distraught” when he came to her office to recount the conversation.
Munns told Barrera that she was providing advice to Oborn that it might not be a good idea for them to attend the service and that she did not mean it as a threat.
Munns said she and the deceased employee had met a few times and the employee shared her grievances against House which Oborn did nothing about, according to the report. It also stated that Munns said she had heard from other employees complaining about House’s “derogatory behavior” which was “ignored and enabled” by Oborn.
Munns did not reveal the identities of the employees complaining because she did not have their permission, she said.
In the report, Barrera said she did “not discount the feelings shared” in the letters received from the late employee’s spouse and a former employee, Debbie Mueller, but did not include what the letters said in the investigation.
There was also no mention of the fact that Munns said Oborn brought up the October 2021 vote of no confidence against him during the conversation in question. There appeared to be no investigation into the claim that Oborn’s response to the alleged threat was possibly done in retaliation.
Barrera stated that even if Munns’ conduct was not criminal, it still shows that breach of duty occurred “before, on June 8, 2022, and after by Mayor Pro Tempore Munns” but did not describe any other misconduct besides what happened on June 8.
Barrera said Munns should have addressed her concerns to Severns because he is Oborn’s direct supervisor, instead of going to Oborn directly.
The investigation concludes with possible remedies including public censure, training for the “aggressor,” limiting the “aggressor’s access to the victim” and creating an added code of ethics that applies to public officers.