City Hall scrap investigated

Zoning administrator put on leave after physical altercation

by Tom Coombe
A city employee is on paid leave and law enforcement are investigating after a physical altercation earlier this month at Ely’s City Hall.
David Huberty, the city’s zoning administrator, has been placed on leave in connection with the July 20 incident.
An Ely property owner claims that Huberty assaulted one of his contractors, sending him to the hospital with injuries to his back and neck.
The incident was recorded on a cell phone and the recording has been turned over to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, according to local property owner Brett Shirley.
Shirley claims that Huberty assaulted “a guy working for me,” identified as Tanner Smuda, after Smuda went to City Hall to inquire about permitting information.
Ely city officials declined comment other than to release the following statement:
“The St. Louis County Sheriff is investigating an incident which occurred at City Hall on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The City will perform an internal investigation, once the County Sheriff has made its determination. We have placed an employee on paid leave pending the disposition of our internal investigation.”
Shirley, who owns and is renovating a home on the corner of Harvey Street and Second Avenue East across the avenue from the post office, contends the scuffle was the result of a dispute with the city over permitting.
“We’ve been jerked around,” said Shirley. “This misinformation has cost us several months time in getting licensed, certified on a rental permit.”
Shirley said Smuda went to City Hall July 20 “to clarify information we’ve been getting,” and that during a dispute, Huberty “got up from his desk and came at Tanner and shoved him, at which point he realized Tanner was recording and then he proceeded to assault him and put him in a headlock.”
Smuda was taken to Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, where he stayed for several hours and was released later that day.
“He was pretty beat up,” said Shirley.
Smuda said Thursday that he has been unable to work since the altercation and that “my spine is out of place. I’m going to see a back specialist.”
He claimed that after telling Huberty he was recording the conversation, that the city employee “attacked me for my cell phone, shoving me toward the city clerk’s office and got me down on the ground, and that’s when (building inspector) Doug (Whitney) came around the corner and said ‘that’s enough’ and got Dave off of me.”
He added “it’s pretty much on the video recording that I’ve given to the sheriff’s department.”
Ely police responded to the altercation but the investigation has been turned over to the county sheriff’s department.
“I was told because it was a conflict of interest they had to defer to the county,” said Shirley.
Shirley said he wants to see charges filed and his permitting issues resolved, and that he’s contacted city officials to no avail.
“This all could have been avoided,” he said. “We’ve lost out on substantial money for this season. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d want my certificate of occupancy, my rental permit. This all should have been done three months ago. We feel targeted by the building department. We’re trying to bring that corner back to life.”