As the occasional reader of this tired old column – now in its 28th consecutive year of publication – may know, I like to reference from time to time the astute writers of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s great fortnightly magazine, National Review.

My parents encouraged me to read WFB in The Cincinnati Enquirer when I was still in high school. I’ve been reading him ever since, even after his passing in 2008. In fact, I was once asked if I read Buckley during a job interview. I replied that I’d been reading him for almost 20 years.

Today’s National Review isn’t quite the same without WFB, but it’s still just about the best magazine around for honest – and yes, conservative – thought and insight on politics and what passes for government at our expense. A Sept. 18 article by one of NR’s best, Jay Nordlinger, hit home with what passes as government – yes, at our expense – in the city of Hillsboro.

In a column entitled “Conservatism vs. crudity” (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451441/conservatism-does-not-mean-crudity-jay-nordlingers-impromptus-september-18-2017), Mr. Nordlinger writes: "Conservatism has many aspects, obviously, but traditionally, they have included self-restraint and respect for others – even a dash of chivalry. Is belligerence the conservative style? Crudity? Loutishness? A lot of people think so.”

Granted, Mr. Nordlinger is writing about a sitting Republican president – not some small-town mayor. But the message resonates, nonetheless. Once upon a time, honorable Republicans and conservatives expected more from their own than what they perceived was expected from those on the liberal left.

Mr. Nordlinger continues: “National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., labored for decades to disassociate conservatism from crudity. Under his leadership, conservatism acquired something of a reputation for elegance, erudition and panache. And a lot of people aspired to be like WFB.”

Some of today’s Republicans seem to aspire to be Jerry Springer with a comma “R” after their names. Such is the present state of affairs in Hillsboro.

To those Republicans from Justice Terry O’Donnell to state Rep. Cliff Rosenberger to the Highland County GOP Cent. Com. members, you might be interested to know that the current mayor of Hillsboro asked me prior to his 2011 campaign: “Would I have a better chance as a Republican or a Democrat?” So much for party conviction.

I told him to go to the Board of Elections and look at the number of registered voters by party. That, and look at how many Democrats hold county offices. Thus, he ran – and won – as a Republican, with the support from local and state Republicans. As I recall, Rosenberger came through with some cash in 2015 when the dubious incumbent was running against Hillsboro native Pam Limes.

In the mayor’s first five years in office, he has luckily avoided prosecution after being indicted on four counts. He has had honorable men like former Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited resign from office. (To his credit, Chief Whited documented his reasons for resigning to Hillsboro City Council. To council’s discredit, they just looked down at their cell phones and failed to address the matter.) He also fired a reputable safety and service director in Todd Wilkin. In fact, he has now had four different police chiefs and four different safety and service directors in just five years. That has to be a record in the city’s 200-plus-year history.

Moreover, here’s what just three Highland County Republicans have said – on the record – about the Republican mayor.

• Following an outburst by the mayor in open session at a county commission meeting, Republican Commission President Shane Wilkin said: "That's not an atmosphere we want in our meetings. It won't happen again."

• Last year at a November city council meeting, Republican City Auditor Gary Lewis essentially called the mayor a liar. Mr. Lewis’ exact words to the mayor were: “That’s such a blatant lie.”

• And for just one more Republican comment against this mayor, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, Council President Lee Koogler said: “He attacked me. He attacked council. And he attacked the entire front row (at the Sept. 19 council committee meeting).”

While I haven’t agreed with Republican officeholders Shane Wilkin, Gary Lewis and Lee Koogler on everything, I consider each to be a man of integrity with honorable track records of public service.

Of course, there are many other references available, but if you don’t get the point by now, you probably don’t want to.

This brings us to what transpired at the Sept. 19 city of Hillsboro Employee Relations Committee meeting. The committee voted, 2-0, to recommend to the full city council that City Law Director Fred Beery prepare a resolution of disapproval of the mayor’s racially insensitive social media posts, which have been well-documented by Hillsboro resident Jaymara Captain and others.

To his credit and integrity, committee chair and retired local educator Bill Alexander made a motion for the resolution. It was seconded by committee member Rebecca Wilkin – also to her credit and integrity as a public servant.

After the motion, Mr. Alexander and Mrs. Wilkin voted in favor, while committee member Claudia Klein did not vote.

“I did not hear a definitive vote, either in favor or opposed (from Klein),” Mr. Alexander told The Highland County Press. "I will check with Claudia to see if there was a vote that was beneath my level of hearing; but in any event, I am confident that it is still a valid vote."

President Koogler said the committee's majority vote would suffice to advance the action to the full council at a future meeting. Mr. Alexander said that he spoke with Mr. Beery, who “felt that it would be a legitimate vote.”

“It will be reported as ‘voted without opposition’ when I give my committee report,” Mr. Alexander said.

Mr. Alexander said that the committee voted to draft the resolution in response to requests from members of council and the community to “take a stance as a council.”

“Our goal is to give the council an opportunity to distance ourselves from comments that have been made on social media by (the mayor),” Mr. Alexander said. “It is a resolution of disapproval. What we’ve asked is for the law director to draw up a resolution using the appropriate format and language."

It is important to acknowledge that President Koogler has taken the brunt of my public criticism since the mayor’s personally fortunate acquittal (“not guilty” and “innocent” aren’t exactly the same) of all charges last year.

Since the president of council and I both agree on the city’s occasionally unprofessional representation – at taxpayers’ expense – from the mayor’s office, I have tried to encourage council to take the initiative and put the brakes on the mayor’s personal agenda; e.g., permitting drive-through business windows in city alleys for the benefit of the mayor’s property and a member of council’s property, etc.

Mostly, council members Dick Donley, Ann Morris, Claudia Klein and Tracy Aranyos have shown little public concern for the mayor’s incredible abuses and social media insults. On city matters, they have been the proverbial rubber-stampers, thus forwarding the mayor's agenda with the requisite four votes. For the past five years, the current mayor has had four Republican council members in his hip pocket. Why, is anyone’s guess.

Council members Justin Harsha, Rebecca Wilkin, Bill Alexander and Lee Koogler have acted differently. However, the council president rarely votes on anything except to break a tie. His work is often unseen by the voting and taxpaying public.

Why any city official would not publicly renounce the vile and disgusting written statements by the mayor is a question only those supporters can answer.

I am told by at least one law enforcement professional – who most likely knows – that the mayor has written some extremely repulsive things on social media that were obtained during his former housemate’s child pornography investigation. Those records ought to be released to the public.

“This is not just the African-American community,” Mr. Alexander said at a recent council meeting. “This goes beyond that. This is something that a segment of people in our community are asking for council to take a position on the comments that the mayor has made through his social media. We appreciate all of the people who did speak and the passion that is felt by so many people. I very much did appreciate their bringing to council their concerns.”

When asked for a comment by The Highland County Press, Koogler said: "He (Hastings) attacked council and me in his prepared statement. He attacked the front row that included Jaymara Captain, Pam Limes and Ariana Jackson. He basically said this (the social media posts) is done with comedic intent. I don't feel that he was at all apologetic. He showed no remorse."

Koogler praised the committee for "putting themselves on record" and making a recommendation for the law director and full council's consideration.

• • •

Shortly after the Sept. 19 council committee meeting, city of Hillsboro employee Craig Jackson filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a motion for a preliminary injunction in an employment discrimination lawsuit against the city and the mayor in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

This latest litigation once again brings the question of total outside legal expenses the city has incurred since Jan. 1, 2012.

Instead of pursuing a "Hotel Downtown Redevelopment District" – a project perhaps best left to the private sector – council ought to address the total costs related to all the litigation (most of which has resulted in unfavorable decisions for the city). Council – and taxpayers – are also encouraged to read the state law for redevelopment district at http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5709.45.

When Hillsboro City Council holds its public hearing on Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Justice Center to hear comments on the proposed redevelopment and hotel districts, maybe the members will address the following, pursuant to another Ohio Revised Code – 149.43 – regarding public records. From Jan. 1, 2012 to the present, please provide:

• All city fees and expenses related to all outside services and consulting for any litigation; for any proposed city development; all contract negotiation expenses; all city employee health care negotiation expenses; all past and pending matters of litigation for the period (Jan. 1, 2012-present); all settlement expenses related thereto, including but not limited to: the settlements with Craig Turner (Turner Funeral Homes), Doug Wagoner (Wagoner Insurance), Kirby Ellison, Casey Lengefeld, Todd Wilkin and expenses to date related to Craig Jackson.

Further, please provide a total dollar amount that the city incurred for similar expenses for the period from Jan. 1, 2004-Dec. 31, 2011. This would make for a very interesting comparison.

Thanks to the courage of Bill Alexander and Rebecca Wilkin (with commendable support from Lee Koogler), the full council may soon have an opportunity to do the right thing and let the citizens and taxpayers know that you represent them – not the administration.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.