Council to vote on changing mayor pro tem

The Oak Harbor City Council may strip the mayor pro tem of the position over an alleged threat.

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council are finally going to discuss next week whether to strip the city’s first female mayor pro tem of the position over an alleged threat.

A review of the pro tem position is set for the Aug. 3 council meeting that may have some verbal fireworks because of the politically charged nature of the issue.

Mayor pro tem Beth Munns got into hot water with city leaders in June when she told City Administrator Blaine Oborn that neither he nor Human Resources Director Emma House should go to the funeral of a city staff member or they “would be slapped and hit,” according to a report by Oak Harbor Police Chief Kevin Dresker.

The News-Times received the report along with several other documents under a public records request. Dresker investigated the incident after Oborn sent him an email asking for “help in addressing this threat.”

Oborn also reported the incident to the city HR department as “workplace violence,” according to Dresker’s report. Munns, however, said she only meant it as a warning because she was concerned that people at the funeral might cause a scene due to their dislike for Oborn. She apologized to Oborn in an email and reiterated she didn’t mean her comment as a threat.

Dresker wrote that both the city’s prosecutor and the city attorney agreed that Munns’ comment wasn’t a prosecutable crime since it was “general in nature and not specific.”

Dresker made sure at least a couple of police officers in plain clothes were at the funeral to avert any trouble.

The police chief advised Oborn not to talk to anyone about the incident until he could do more investigating, but the story quickly spread to council members and others in the city.

Mayor Bob Severns wrote in a June 15 email to Munns that council members had asked him if he would support a motion to name someone else as mayor pro tem. He wrote that he would.

The mayor set a special session for June 27 to review the pro tem position, but it wasn’t properly noticed and cancelled. The issue was added to the agenda for a workshop meeting two days later, but council members tabled it because Munns was on vacation.

A mayor pro tem acts as the mayor in the absence of the mayor. In Oak Harbor, the position has traditionally been held by the longest-serving member of the council. The council chose Munns for the honor beginning in 2018.

The issue of whether to choose a different pro tem has caused some disagreement on the council and in the community. Several citizens spoke at meetings in support of Munns.

The controversy has also returned a spotlight on a perceived problems with staff morale. A staff survey last year revealed discontent among many employees, the most serious of which included allegations of retaliation on the part of Oborn and House. Some of the employees also complained about contact with council members, including Munns.

Councilmember Dan Evans recently asked council to approve a third-party investigation of the staff complaints. The council didn’t pass his motion, but he wrote in an email that he plans to bring it back.