The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:19 pm

Davis resigns as deputy city clerk

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

Embattled Fort Wayne Deputy City Clerk Angie Davis abruptly resigned her office Thursday. 

"Earlier today, my office was informed of inexcusable activities by some employees of the city clerk," Mayor Tom Henry said in a statement Thursday afternoon announcing Davis’ resignation.

"Those employees, including Chief Deputy Clerk Angie Davis, have resigned. Due to this vacancy, state statute requires my office to appoint an Interim City Clerk."

Davis, and the city clerk’s office as a whole, has faced criticism and scrutiny after allegations – supported by video secretly recorded, edited and captioned by former parking enforcement supervisor Colin Keeney – surfaced this month that former City Clerk Sandy Kennedy threatened employees’ jobs if they did not contribute to Davis’ election campaign.

Davis is running to replace Kennedy, who announced this year she would not seek another term. With less than a week until Election Day, it is too late to remove Davis’ name from the ballot.

Kennedy resigned Oct. 13, citing health concerns, after 32 years as city clerk. 

Patty Stahlhut, Davis’ campaign treasurer and a supervisor in the city clerk’s office, also resigned Thursday, city spokesman John Perlich confirmed in an email. Perlich would not elaborate on the nature of the activities cited in the mayor’s statement.

The city clerk’s office was closed by 4 p.m. Thursday.

Henry appointed former City Councilman Don Schmidt, a Republican, to serve as interim city clerk. Schmidt will begin work immediately.

"Don is a respected member of our community and a dedicated public servant," Henry said in his statement. "I appreciate Don’s willingness to serve in this important role as we work together to meet the needs of our city."

Schmidt’s appointment is a stop-gap measure intended to keep the office running until the Allen County Democratic Party holds a caucus Nov. 8 to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Kennedy’s term. 

"I think Mayor Henry is showing exactly why the citizens of Fort Wayne elected him for two terms and will elect him for a third term," County Democratic Party Chairman John Court said. "He has the ability to reach across the aisle to do what is best for the citizens."

Court added that Schmidt is "the right guy at unfortunately the right time" to make sure the duties of the clerk’s office continue to be fulfilled.

In a phone interview Thursday evening, Schmidt said he understands the mayor’s predicament.

"I appreciate the confidence that he has to put me in there, even if it’s only for a week," he said. "Certainly, I know many of the council members and I know many of the employees in the clerk’s office from my past tenure, so it should be a comfortable fit for the short term." 

The mayor’s announcement came several hours after a news conference at Allen County GOP headquarters during which party Chairman Steve Shine called on Henry to be proactive in dealing with the situation in the clerk’s office.

"Mayor Henry tells us that it’s a ‘personnel matter.’ He hides behind this instead of answering the difficult questions at hand," Shine told reporters about 12:30 p.m. Thursday. "Why, even after being informed of what was going on in the clerk’s office, did he do nothing?" 

Shine added he believes there will be further evidence of wrongdoing put forth over the next several days. Shine’s statement was his second since the allegations surfaced. On Oct. 12, one day before Kennedy left office, Shine called for the resignations of both Davis and the long-serving clerk. 

Henry’s office continues to state its belief that the city clerk and mayor are separately elected positions that operate independently of each other and that the mayor has no authority over the clerk.

It’s telling, Shine said, that Henry decided to appoint a Republican to serve as clerk until the Democrats appoint Kennedy’s successor.

"Obviously that’s an acknowledgment that the Republican strategy for city administration is unheralded and impeccable," Shine said. 

The controversy surrounding the city clerk’s office also had an impact on City Council deliberations regarding the city’s 2016 budget.

In a 6-3 vote along party lines Tuesday, the council voted to slash the city clerk’s budget by 75 percent. That left only enough money to fund the office for the first three months of the year. The new city clerk will then have to appear before the council to request funding for the rest of the year. Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, has said the move would allow time for an investigation by the city’s ethics board into the alleged behavior. 

Davis did not return a message left seeking comment.

GOP city clerk candidate Lana Keesling was unable to be reached Thursday evening.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily