Middletown city manager suspended after outburst in coffee shop

Middletown city manager suspended after outburst in coffee shop
Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins will serve a one-day suspension later this month for an outburst at a coffee shop. (Source: City of Middletown, Ohio Facebook page)

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (FOX19) - Middletown’s city manager will serve a one-day suspension after an outburst in a local business last week, city leaders announced Tuesday.

Doug Adkins will publicly apologize during the next Middletown City Council meeting, on Tuesday, and will serve his suspension Oct. 24, according to Shelby Quinlivan, city spokeswoman.

This comes after City Council held a special meeting and met behind closed doors in executive session Monday and talked with city employees about an incident at Triple Moon Coffee Company on Oct. 2, the city said in a statement.

“On Monday, October 7, 2019, Middletown City Council held a Special meeting and met in Executive Session and discussed with city employees concerning an incident at Triple Moon Coffee Company on Wednesday, October 2, 2019,” the statement reads.

“After due consideration and evaluation, Council has issued a one-day suspension and requested a public apology from the City Manager. Council does not condone the actions of the City Manager on October 2, 2019. However, they appreciate his hard work for the City and look forward to working together to continue advancing Middletown’s success.

A short video clip of the meeting on the city’s website only shows a few seconds at the beginning of the meeting and then it ends.

Council did not take a public vote on the discipline against the city manager after the executive session, a city spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday when we asked when the vote was taken.

“There was a discussion in executive session. It will be on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting to ratify,” Quinlivan said in a text.

Adkins has been the city manager for five years. Prior to that, he was community revitalization director and a city prosecutor. He started his service with the city in 2005, Quinlivan said.

FOX19 NOW reached out to him for comment by calling his cell phone, where we left a message.

Shortly after, the city spokeswoman contacted us and said in a text he was presenting at an economic development conference in Columbus Wednesday and “isn’t available for interviews. He’s making a public apology at council next week. That will be the statement he gives."

Council learned of the incident and the city manager’s behavior at the coffee shop after the manager of a downtown business sent an email to them Oct 2, Quinlivan confirmed.

The outburst related to concerns over issues about homeless issues downtown that residents and business workers raised at a recent council meeting, FOX19 NOW has learned.

The then-police chief, Rodney Muterspaw, wrote extensively about the homeless issue in social media posts last month, and the issues were discussed at a council meeting.

Muterspaw was one of the employees who met privately with council Monday night to discuss the incident involving the city manager at Triple Moon. Muterspaw’s last day on the job was Friday, and he officially retires in January.

RELATED: Middletown police chief leaves earlier than expected due to ‘issues at the City’ l Police: Other communities ‘discarding’ homeless in Middletown

One of the owners of Triple Moon wrote City Council members an email about the city manager’s outburst at her business, a copy of it shows.

“As you are all aware, City Manager Atkins came into Triple Moon Coffee Co. Wednesday morning and absolutely lambasted our manager, Rene Theiss. This occurred during regular business hours, with customers present,” reads the email from Michelle Tice that FOX19 NOW obtained.

“I believe this to be in retaliation for Rene and my partner, Heather Gibson, speaking on the homeless issue at the previous night’s council meeting. HIs (sic) actions are totally inexcusable in so many ways; intimidation by a city official, uncontrolled behavior in public, abuse of position, lack of respect for our customers... The list goes on. Behavior of this kind from any other citizen would never be tolerated, and most definitely should not be by Mr. Atkins. This man is a city official, our top city official, and he’s running around like he’s Don Corleone. Leadership by intimidation cannot be allowed to go unchecked...."

Good Morning Middletown, Wanted to tackle the elephant in the room, an uncomfortable topic that we deal with every day...

Posted by Middletown Division of Police on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Emails FOX19 NOW obtained also show a disagreement between the city manager and the police chief related to the homeless issue and how Muterspaw and others perceived how Adkins talked about Muterspaw at the council meeting led to Muterspaw leaving a month earlier than planned.

He recently announced his retirement but said he would keep working until November.

“I have literally given 110% to this city and position like no other. To be chastised in public is something I would never do to an employee. Ever," Muterspaw wrote, according to the email we obtained. “I guess the thing that is the most disappointing for me is I have been the one person who has supported you when a lot of people didn’t. I have supported you to council, to the officers, to the outside, to the churches and the black community. To have you do that to me in front of all those people and on TV is just disappointing to me. Take care and I wish you the best. Rodney.”

Adkins responded, according to the email: "That wasn’t anger. I’ve never been made at you. My only problem with what you did is that you broke our golden rule… we don’t air our dirty laundry to the public. I think your tweet was a bad call. Everything that you said is true, but It brought all kinds of ongoing negative print and television media attention to the city which further hurts our downtown businesses already suffering from this problem. You’ve been a great Chief for the past five years. I’d hate to see you go out this way but I’ll honor whatever your final decision is.

"I now have a fairly complex problem to solve. I can do it through you until you retire (I meant what I said at the Council meeting about making it your final project), or I can do it through your Majors without you if that is your preference. Again, I’ll honor whatever choice you would like to make. You created this firestorm with your tweet. I’ll take ownership of the homeless problem and the solution. You’ll have to take ownership for the bad publicity that you created for the city. Let me know when you have an idea how you’d like to proceed from here. Thanks, Doug.”

The chief responded:

“Guess we will agree to disagree. Not worth arguing about it at this point. Yes, please have the Majors do it. Probably the best idea. Although Sam has already done a lot of work on it before and he did a good job on it as always. Like I said, I’ll be in tomorrow and calculate time to give you a final disposition. I appreciate you honoring that. In any case, it’ll give the Majors a good opportunity to serve as Acting until you make a decision on them. Again, thanks for everything. I will send you up details tomorrow or Friday. Thanks...”

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