Judge Guy Reece II, by special assignment of the Ohio Supreme Court, has granted Save Our Services’ motion to consolidate its case of “removal for cause” against Liberty Township trustees Melanie Leneghan and Michael Gemperline.
The case is scheduled to be heard at 9 a.m. July 23 in courtroom three on level 500 of the Delaware County Courthouse, 117 N. Union St.
Save Our Services (SOS), a Liberty Township group, filed a “removal for cause” petition July 2 against Leneghan and Gemperline on the grounds of “willfully and flagrantly exercising authority or power not authorized by law, refusing or willfully neglecting to enforce the law or to perform official duties imposed upon (them) by law, and is guilty of gross neglect of duty, misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance.”
The motion to consolidate was granted because the petitions against the individual trustees shared many of the same facts centered around the township’s fire-based emergency medical services (EMS) that could “reduce and compromise services that are vital to the safety and wellness of Liberty Township residents.”
The SOS petition states that both trustees’ “official conduct” to replace Warren Yamarick, M.D, as the township’s EMS medical director was reckless and compromised the residents’ confidence in the quality of emergency medical services. In addition, the SOS petition states that the process in which Yamarick was replaced was an “opaque” one “flouting the norms of transparency.”
“In order to achieve her goals of extracting concessions in labor negotiations with the (International Association of Fire Fighters) and downsizing the (Liberty Township Fire Department) (LTFD), Leneghan has taken actions which recklessly compromise the ability of LTFD to perform its duties, thereby jeopardizing the safety and security of the residents of Liberty Township,” states the petition.
The petition points out that Leneghan was appointed by herself and Gemperline as “Liaison to the Fire Department and Fire Chief on behalf of the Board of Trustees” in a trustees session when Trustee Shyra Eichhorn, usually the dissenting voice, was away on business.
In the Jan. 22 trustees meeting, Eichhorn asked township Fire Chief Thomas O’Brien if he had been directed to hold off implementing the GHOLD protocol along with Genoa, Harlem and Orange townships, and the city Delaware. The GHOLD protocol is an agreed upon standard of medical treatment and/or actions that are used among the EMS providers of Genoa, Harlem, Orange and Liberty township fire departments, and City of Delaware Fire Department.
During the meeting, O’Brien indicated he discussed the new protocol with Leneghan, who in return stated, “she has not heard of the GHOLD Protocol.”
“Leneghan told (O’Brien) to hold off,” states the petition.
Other similar claims against the two trustees encompass using a private email address and privately maintained email servers to conduct official township business.
Individual claims against Gemperline include claims of “improperly ceded his authority and the authority of the Board of Trustees to Leneghan and failed to check her abuses of power” and failing “to recuse himself from matters voted on by the Board of Trustees in which he has a conflict of interest between his official duties and his private property.”
Other claims against Leneghan in the SOS petition state that she improperly ordered law enforcement to remove Yamarick from a trustees’ meeting when he spoke out against her; she had received a formal reprimand by the Board of Trustees for derogatory comments towards a female firefighter of the township; she failed to “safeguard public records” in the custody of a private corporation which is believed to be lost or destroyed and not available for public inspection.
Leneghan is accused by the SOS group of “improperly interfering in the administration of the township Zoning Code” and matters “pending before the township Board of Zoning Appeals on behalf of campaign contributors and political allies,” which is “in violation of the Township’s Conflict of Interest Policy.”
The petition from the supporters of the SOS group claim that “Leneghan voted to grant an unbid contract to a company associated with a campaign contributor, in violation of the Township’s policy on conflicts of interest and without regard to obtaining the most favorable contract for the residents of Liberty Township.”
Since October 2018, countless residents of Liberty Township have fought to keep Leneghan and Gemperline from handing over the township’s award-winning fire-based EMS to Delaware County.
On July 2, SOS, along with attorney Ben Wallace, McTigue and Colombo LLC, filed “removal for cause” petitions with the Delaware County Clerk of Courts.
The petitions, both of which contain 4,062 signatures, requested the 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.
According to Wallace, once the petitions were filed with the clerk of courts, the hearing was to take place within the 30 days.
Four banker boxes containing the signed petitions were carried up the stairs of the Delaware County Courthouse 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, the day the petitions were filed. “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.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.