Middletown’s economic development director resigns amid administrative leave, probe

Chris Xeil Lyons
Chris Xeil Lyons(@MiddletownBiz)
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 12:34 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 1:20 PM EDT
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MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WXIX) - Middletown’s economic development director has quit after she was suspended from her job with pay nearly a month ago “pending further investigation into matters relating to (her) employment,” city records show.

The resignation of Chris Xeil Lyons, who held the job since April 2020, is the latest in a string of departing top administrators for this southwestern Ohio city of 48,807 residents that is located along Interstate 75 between Cincinnati and Dayton.

The city manager, Jim Palenick, and Middletown City Council mutually agreed to part ways last month, the city said in a news release on March 14. Palenick brought developers interested in building the proposed $1.3 billion Hollywoodland development to the city but the council never voted on it after criticism from residents.

The former assistant city manager, Susan Cohen, left to become the administrator in Union Township, and the director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau also recently resigned.

Assistant City Manager Nathan Cahall is now managing Middletown’s economic development department, according to a city spokeswoman.

Middletown’s acting city manager who is the fire chief, Paul Lolli, placed Chris Lyons Xeil on administrative leave on March 24.

He ordered her in a letter to immediately cease any activities on behalf of the city, to stay away from any property owned or used by the city and to “preserve, unchanged, any City-related communications and property in your possession, including any communications regarding your job duties, regardless of where they are stored.”

Lyons was notified just before she was suspended that she was doing so well in her job, her department director recommended she advance to a higher pay scale that would give her a biweekly salary of $4,462.72, or $116,030.72 annually, records in her personnel file show.

“This increase will be effective January 1, 2022 and reflects your continued good performance as an employee of the city of Middletown,” the city’s human resources interim manager wrote Xeil in a March 11 memo.

FOX19 NOW has a request for comment into Lyons and we are seeking more information from the city.

Her resignation email to Lolli is dated Thursday, April 21, but she wrote that it is effective April 8. She does not say why in her email, and Lolli said in a statement to FOX19 NOW provided by a city spokeswoman that is the date of her resignation:

“Chris Xiel Lyons resigned her position as Economic Development Director for the City of Middletown effective April 8, 2022.”

Her resignation notice lists her accomplishments, noting that she started in the position at the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine in 2020 “and worked hard to ensure that the Economic Development offices were open and fully functional throughout the lockdown in order to assist the Middletown business community.

Her accomplishments include awarding over $700,000 in small business funding, creating the Middletown Port Authority as a way to support new residential development and creating the Middletown Small Business Alliance to help provide networking, resources and funding for small businesses at no cost, her letter states.

“I am extremely proud to have served the citizens of Middletown and of what the Economic Development Department accomplished during my tenure, and I hope that Middletown continues to thrive in the future.”

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