CADIZ – Nick Homrighausen will remain executive director of the Harrison County Community Improvement Corp. after the board voted 9-3 at a special meeting Thursday to retain him.
Harrison County Commissioners Don Bethel and Paul Coffland had given CIC until April 21 to sign a proposed new contract with the county and “to terminate the individual currently employed by HCCIC who has breached our trust.”
Bethel said Homrighausen exhibited “unethical behavior and dishonesty.”
By retaining Homrighausen, the council will no longer have a contract with the commissioners to provide economic development services.
CIC President Dale Arbaugh said the council will work with legal counsel to determine what that will mean.
“It affects Harrison County in general,” he said at the end of the meeting, held at the Puskarich Public Library. “So it’s not a win-win for anyone. It’s not a win for us to keep Nick like this. It’s not a solution that will be of long-term benefit to Harrison County. So we have a lot of work to do.”
Prior to the vote, Bethel detailed her concerns about Homrighausen.
He called for the discussion to be held in an executive session, fearing that media coverage of the meeting could jeopardize the Harrison Energy Center project, a 1,085 megawatt natural gas power plant to be built in the park. Harrison County industrialist in Cádiz. Council members voted to remain in open session.
Bethel’s concerns centered on a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement to split the power plant’s revenue among various government entities in the county. The agreement was to be signed by the commissioners, the Village of Cadiz and Harrison Hills City Schools.
He said it started as a proposal. The school district was to get 28%, the villages and townships 42%, the county 15% and the CIC 15%.
“Somewhere in the process between us signing this and Nick getting to the village, something happened,” he said. “Those numbers, all of a sudden, weren’t just a proposition anymore. They turned into, this is what the powerhouse wants, or those numbers can’t change because, who knows what?”
The commissioners and the village signed the deal, but the school district balked at getting 28% of the money, he said. The municipality wanted 45%.
Bethel said it contacted Homrighausen, asking if the proposed numbers could change.
“Are you sure it can’t change?” Bethel said he asked Homrighausen. “No, capital N O in an email. Is that enough proof that he’s directly lying to a commissioner when representing commissioners?”
He told the CIC board that Homrighausen was not outspoken.
The way the power plant money was going to be divided has changed several times since then, he noted.
“I can’t help you if you vote to keep Mr. Homrighausen. But I’ll tell you what’s not going to happen,” Bethel said, referring to himself and Coffland, “this commissioner and this commissioner for at least 2022 are not dealing with any company, any entity that has this man as a senior director of economic development.”
Coffland echoed those comments.
“We are not going to allow Mr. Homrighausen to represent us as our economic developer,” he said. “If CIC chooses to keep him as executive director, that’s your entity. But you’ll be on an island, because you won’t have Harrison County resources anymore. Those will end on April 21.”
Homrighausen declined to comment on the charges.
CIC attorney Erick Bauer then explained to the board what would happen if the members fired Homrighausen. It is expected to change its bylaws, hire a new executive director and deal with a possible loss of confidence from JobsOhio, the state’s economic development agency. This could jeopardize contracts with the power plant and Western Magnesium Corp., which plans to build a billion-dollar manufacturing plant in the Cadiz industrial park.
The CIC could also face a lawsuit from Homrighausen, he said.
If the council votes to keep him, he would lose county funding and have to live on the money he has. The CIC would probably only have $60,000 left by the end of the year.
Board member Dave Wheeler spoke out in favor of keeping Homrighausen.
“I think a lot of the problem the commissioners have with Mr. Homrighausen is personal, because if you call JobsOhio and talk to the gentleman who runs the operations part of JobsOhio, not the chairman of the board, but the person who runs it, who actually gets the leads in the county, you talk to him, he’ll tell you exactly what kind of economic developer he is,” Wheeler said.
“He’ll tell you what a pleasure it is to work with. He’s the go-to guy in this part of the state.”
He noted, “I just want the voting members to consider the success we’ve had, the continued success we can have, and the threat or risk of bringing Western Magnesium and powerhouse online. If we’re to start starting from scratch with these people, it might not work.”
Homrighausen won after council members voted by secret ballot.
The CIC Board of Directors will meet again on April 12. At that point, Arbaugh said, the agency would have other answers about how the transition will play out.
Homrighausen is the son of the Mayor of Dover, Richard Homrighausen. The mayor was indicted by a Tuscarawas County grand jury on 15 counts of allegedly pocketing wedding expenses that should have been paid to the city.