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Councilman’s ‘investigation’ ends in lawsuit

Investigations into claims of HUD money mismanagement in the City of Ironton will result in litigation between a city council member and a private citizen.

Monday, August 16, 1999

Investigations into claims of HUD money mismanagement in the City of Ironton will result in litigation between a city council member and a private citizen.

While photographing areas of the city that some claim did not receive their rightful share of federal grant money, Ironton City Council member Bob Vaughn and city resident James Ridgeway looked suspicious to nearby homeowners, said Dan Mullins, 1706 N. Second St.

Mullins brought his concerns to Ironton City Council Thursday.

"As a citizen and an individual, I seem to have gotten sucked up into something I was totally unaware of," Mullins said. "I think citizens need to be made aware when anyone is taking pictures of their home, especially if it involves city business."

Mullins, whose property is adjacent to at least one of the areas photographed by Vaughn, said he noticed two strangers taking pictures of what appeared to be his home. When he went to investigate, Mullins said the men left and he pursued them for several blocks in an attempt to talk to them.

"Finally at Fifth and Center streets at a three-way stop, traffic laws called for them to stop, and I pulled up beside them and motioned for them to roll down their window," Mullins told council members. "I wanted to know who they were and what their business was, and their response was ‘We’re not thieves.’"

On a second occasion, Mullins said he received a telephone call from his wife and returned home from work to find the Ironton police at his home.

"I was not home and do not know exactly what happened, but I do know that more than once, they refused to identify themselves," he said.

Ridgeway told council members he and Vaughn showed Mrs. Mullins a map of what they were photographing in an attempt to calm her.

But in an Ironton police report, Mrs. Mullins said the men told her they were on city business but still refused to provide their names.

In a second Ironton police report, Vaughn stated he wanted to press charges against Mrs. Mullins because she attempted to take his camera and injured his arm.

"I am doing what I took an oath to do, which is protect these United States and the City of Ironton," Vaughn said. "At this time I have no comment further on this matter and it will go under litigation."

No ordinance or resolution has been passed formally by city council concerning an investigation into alleged HUD misappropriations. Therefore, no official city business was being conducted when the pictures were taken, council chairman Jesse Roberts said, adding that it is in no way illegal to photograph a person’s home.

The Ironton mayor’s office also reported no prior knowledge of city business in that area during the incident.