Disciplinary hearing held for city’s CFO

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, May 27, 2021

Gosser remains on paid administrative leave

Editor’s note: The Advocate-Messenger received a call from Michele Gosser’s attorney Stacy Coontz at 5:18 p.m. Thursday, which was after press time for the print edition of the paper. This web post has been updated as of 5:45 p.m. Thursday to include her comments, which will not appear in the print article released Friday.

On Wednesday morning, the Danville City Commission held a disciplinary hearing for Michele Gosser, the city’s chief financial officer. Gosser is the same city employee who filed a lawsuit against the city of Danville, city manager Earl Coffey, and human resources manager Randy Boyd, on Thursday, Jan. 28, claiming discrimination and harassment on the basis of her gender and disability.

On Thursday morning following the hearing, Mayor Mike Perros declined to comment about details of the hearing, but he said in response when asked if it had anything to do with the lawsuit, “It has nothing to do with that.”

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The motion Perros made after the hearing and executive session, and once the board of commissioners returned to regular session, was: “I move that based upon the compelling nature of the evidence supporting a lack of management supervision of Michelle Gosser over the finance department, that she be reassigned from the position of CFO to bookkeeper and that she remain on paid administrative leave pending amendment to the city’s classification and compensation ordinance, and I further move that the city manager’s recommendation to eliminate the position of CFO be tabled for public discussion at a future meeting of the board of commissioners.”

The motion was unanimously approved by the city commissioners present. Commissioner Jennie Hollon was not present.

“The motion should speak for itself,” Perros said when asked if he would comment on what the hearing was about and what things will look like going forward with Gosser.

Coffey gave a similar response when asked for comment.

“As a matter of policy we do not comment on personnel matters, and the action of the commission speaks for itself,’’ he wrote in a text. He said with litigation, he has no comment on those matters when asked if the hearing was in any way related to the lawsuit.

Gosser could not be reached for comment. Her attorney Stacy Coontz called to comment on the hearing for her after press time. Coontz is an attorney at the Helton Law Office, and she and Ephraim “Eph” Helton are legal counsel for Gosser.

Coontz did not comment on the allegations Coffey filed against Gosser or the response filed against the allegations, since she said they are lengthy. However, she said Gosser and her legal counsel are happy the board of commissioners did not terminate Gosser’s employment.

“They were very fair and listened to all the evidence, and while we weren’t thrilled with the transfer of position, we are delighted that they saw fit to retain her as a city of Danville employee,” Coontz said. 

Coontz noted that Gosser’s lawsuit against the city is still pending. She said the allegations presented by Coffey during the hearing were unrelated to the lawsuit, but “The timing of it is just a bit odd.”

Present at the hearing were Gosser, her legal counsel Coontz, and city attorney Stephen Dexter, who served as hearing officer, a role he said is separate from his role as city attorney.

The events of the hearing were as follows: over the city’s YouTube livestream of the meeting, Dexter said this was a disciplinary hearing for a city employee, and prior to the meeting, he had gotten a request from Gosser’s counsel that he wanted to discuss. Because of this, they took a recess, which was not livestreamed.

Dexter said the hearing would begin with a presentation of allegations and a recommendation from Coffey, and at the conclusion of his presentation, the board of commissioners could ask questions. Gosser’s counsel could have the option to cross-examine if desired, and after that, Gosser’s counsel had the opportunity to present any proof for a counter-statement of the case. At the end of those remarks, commissioners and the city manager could ask more questions.

Dexter said at the end of the case, commissioners would go into executive session to deliberate and discuss evidence they found compelling.

He also said Gosser had the option, legally, as to whether the session would be open for public viewing, and Gosser requested it be a closed session.

Later on Wednesday evening was when the commission’s executive session ended and the floor was opened back up to regular session. This is when Perros delivered the motion approved by the board of commissioners.