Since October 2018, countless residents of Liberty Township have fought to keep two trustees from handing over the township’s award-winning fire-based emergency medical services (EMS) to Delaware County.
At 1 p.m. Wednesday, the grassroots group Save Our Services (SOS), along with attorney Ben Wallace, McTigue and Colombo LLC, filed removal for cause petitions with the Delaware County Clerk of Courts. The petitions seek to remove township trustees Melanie Leneghan and Michael Gemperline from office.
“We’re just here exercising our American rights under the Constitution,” said Larry Coolidge, a resident of the township and SOS supporter.
The petitions, both of which contain 4,062 signatures, request a hearing, under Ohio Revised Code 3.07, on allegations of misconduct in office. The threshold of valid signatures needed for the hearing to proceed is 15% (2,511) of the gubernatorial votes cast in the November 2018 election in Liberty Township.
A press release from SOS states, “1,116 more people signed Gemperline’s removal for cause petition than voted for him in the November 2017 election.”
According to Wallace, once the petitions were filed with the clerk of courts, the hearing must take place within the next 30 days. He was asked if there could be any reason for the opposing side to delay the hearing.
“I won’t speculate on what they’re going to do,” he said. “The statute is clear on the hearing being held within 30 days.”
Four banker boxes containing the signed petitions were carried up the stairs of the Delaware County Courthouse Wednesday by SOS supporters to the third floor, where they were dropped off at the Delaware County Clerk of Court’s Office.
“It’s a shame that it had to come to this,” said Karen Slavik, a Liberty Township resident and SOS supporter. “Lord knows we’ve tried for months to reason with her (Leneghan) and present her with factual evidence which she scorned. This is our best avenue at this point.”
Ray Sanders, a Liberty Township resident who was escorted out of a trustees meeting in January by a Delaware County Sheriff’s deputy at the request of Leneghan, said the group “is the silent minority speaking out.”
The petition summary, provided by SOS, lists nine alleged claims against Leneghan and five alleged claims against Gemperline. According to the SOS press release, if one claim is proven, the trustee is “immediately removed from office.”
The nine allegations against Leneghan:
• Planned to terminate the local fire-based EMS and give control to Delaware County EMS.
• No transparency in reasons for firing the former medical director (Warren Yamarick) and replacing him with Delaware County’s medical director which has caused an increase of 300% in cost to taxpayers and has intentionally used the situation to gain an upper hand in contract negotiations with IAFF Local 3754, the firefighters union.
• A resident was removed from a trustees meeting when he attempted to use his First Amendment rights in speaking out against her plans.
• The use of private email accounts to conduct official township business which makes requests for public documents difficult, if not impossible, to fill.
• Failed to safeguard public documents she held on her personal, private server resulting in their destruction.
• Interfered in a zoning matter to benefit a campaign contributor.
• Interfered in a board of zoning appeals matter to benefit a campaign contributor.
• Granted a no-bid contract to the employer of a campaign contributor.
The five allegations against Gemperline:
• Plans to terminate our local fire-based ems and give control to Delaware County EMS, compromising safety of residents.
• Lack of transparency in reasons to fire the former medical director (Warren Yamarick) and replace him with the Delaware County’s medical director, increasing the cost to taxpayers 300%.
• Improperly ceding his authority to Leneghan while failing to check her abuse of power.
• Using a private email account to conduct official township business.
• Failed to recuse himself from voting on matters in which he has a conflict of interest.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.