Judge dismisses Mayer’s lawsuit against township


By Glenn Battishill - [email protected]



Mayer

Mayer


A Delaware County Common Pleas Court judge has sided with Orange Township and its former administrator, Lee Bodnar, and dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by former Fiscal Officer Wesley Mayer.

The lawsuit against Bodnar and the Orange Township Board of Trustees was filed on Oct. 1, 2020, in Delaware County Common Pleas Court and centers on an Ohio Ethics Commission complaint filed by Bodnar against Mayer in 2019 when they were both Orange Township employees.

The OEC complaint centers around the events of Oct. 9, 2019, when Mayer, who was fiscal officer at the time, was driving a rental car on U.S. Route 23 and ran out of gas. Mayer contacted Orange Township Fire Chief Matt Noble and asked him for assistance, but Noble was unable to help, so Mayer contacted Aaron James, the township’s maintenance director. James and another township employee, Richard Spellman, brought Mayer gasoline to refuel his car. Mayer wrote the township a check on Oct. 11, 2019, for $40 to reimburse it for any expenses.

On Oct. 10, 2019, Orange Township Trustee Lisa Knapp made a motion directing Bodnar to file the OEC complaint regarding Mayer’s calls for assistance. In March 2020, the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the township to report that it would not be investigating the incident further because any damage was less than $50, Mayer had already reimbursed the township and because Mayer no longer held the office after losing his reelection bid in November 2019.

Mayer stated in his lawsuit that the OEC filing was a contributing factor in his loss. He also alleged in the lawsuit that Bodnar and the township were guilty of defamation for damaging his reputation.

On Jan. 4, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asking Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley to dismiss the lawsuit for several reasons, including arguing that the Orange Township Board of Trustees is entitled to statutory immunity.

On April 27, Gormley issued a ruling and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that the township and Bodnar were immune to Mayer’s defamation claim.

“Because the Board is a political subdivision immune from liability for intentional torts like defamation, the Board’s motion for summary judgment on this claim is granted,” Gormley said.

The second count of the complaint deals with the recording Bodnar reportedly had of James discussing the Oct. 9, 2019 incident. Numerous public records requests for the recording were included with the lawsuit, but the recording was unable to be located on Bodnar’s township phone and computer. Mayer was eventually provided a copy of the recording during the lawsuit.

Gormley dismissed the forfeiture claim related to the recording, ruling that Mayer is not “an aggrieved party.”

“Mayer, however, did receive the recording when it was provided in this litigation in response to a discovery demand,” Gormley wrote. “Because Mayer received a copy of the Recording, his right to scrutinize and evaluate the Township’s decision to file the OEC complaint was not infringed, particularly where the OEC took no adverse action again him before he obtained the Recording. Because Mayer is not an aggrieved party, the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Mayer’s forfeiture claim is granted.”

There have been no filings in the case since Gormley’s final appealable order on April 27.

Bodnar left the township in 2020 to take a position as an administrator at the Delaware County Engineer’s Office.

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https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2022/05/web1_Wes-Mayer-copy.jpgMayer

By Glenn Battishill

[email protected]

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.