The defendants in an ongoing legal battle with Liberty Township Trustee Mike Gemperline have filed a motion asking for an extended deadline so they have the option to appeal a recent Fifth District Court of Appeals ruling with the Ohio Supreme Court.
The lawsuit was filed by Mike Gemperline in 2020 and alleges that seven Liberty Township residents — Domenico Franano, Karen Slavik, Rebecca Mount, Susan Miceli, Kerry Daly, William Houk and Gary R. Johnson — committed abuse of process, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress when they filed a petition to remove him from office.
The petition to remove Gemperline centered around speculation that Gemperline wanted to dismantle Liberty Township EMS and instead rely on Delaware County EMS for emergency services. Gemperline wrote in his lawsuit that the allegations were false, and he never had any plan to reduce emergency services in the township. The petition succeeded, and a complaint was filed against Gemperline, though it was later voluntarily dismissed.
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley dismissed the lawsuit in December, but the Fifth District Court of Appeals overturned one part of his ruling and allowed the abuse of process claim to continue.
Specifically, Gormley dismissed the abuse of process charge, saying it was “devoid of any specific factual allegations to support its existence,” and Gemperline failed to provide “the grounds of … entitlement to relief” beyond “labels and conclusions.”
The Fifth District Court disagreed, stating Gemperline alleges the elements of abuse of process and specific facts that constitute those elements before quoting examples from Gemperline’s complaint. The appeals court wrote that the record shows the complaint alleges that the legal process was proper in form and with probable cause, and the complaint alleges the defendants tried to “pervert the process” in order to damage Gemperline’s reputation and finances. The court further wrote that that the complaint alleges that Gemperline sustained damages as a result of the “wrongful use of process.”
After the Fifth District ruling, Gormley filed a scheduling entry and directed the defendants to make a motion or plead to the abuse of process claim by Sept. 29.
On Tuesday, the defendants filed a motion asking that the deadline be extended so the defendants can consider an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court and asked for a new deadline of Oct. 18, the same deadline as the supreme court appeal.
The defendant’s motion states that by the Oct. 18 deadline, the defendants will either provide Gormley with notice that they have appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio or they will file an answer, motion, or other pleading in response to the abuse of process complaint.
Court records show a ruling had not yet been made at press time Wednesday.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.