Embattled Liberty Township Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Mike Gemperline were forced into court by a group of angry residents. Leneghan suggested in her announcement of the dismissal of the lawsuit that the group, Save Our Services (SOS), attempted to obtain certain agreements from the two trustees in order for them to dismiss the case, and those “agreements” may have violated the law.
“Simply put, they asked us to commit to certain legislative decisions, in exchange for the benefit to us of the dismissal of the Complaint,” Leneghan and Gemperline wrote in a statement. “In our view they were asking us to violate Ohio’s open meeting laws and our ethical obligations. We refused.”
“The ringleaders also asked us for a release from any future lawsuit for defamation, malicious prosecution and abuse of process – in exchange for a dismissal of the Complaint. We also refused,” she stated. “Even when it was suggested that a weak apology might be forthcoming as part of a settlement agreement, we again refused to agree. Rather, we were prepared to proceed to trial to clear our names.”
Nico Franano, the media contact and one of the plaintiffs for Save Our Services, announced their “voluntary dismissal of the Removal for Cause complaints against Liberty Township Trustees” late Friday morning.
According to Franano’s press release, the Petitioners began negotiations with the Trustees on July 26.
“The initial settlement offer to the Trustees outlined 14 points that focused on the faithful execution of their duties as Trustees and a ‘cooling off’ period for any EMS related action through the end of the year,” it stated.
The end result?
SOS agreed to dismiss the case in total, none of the charges against Leneghan and Gemperline were upheld, and no concessions were made by the two trustees.
“In our opinion the dismissal demonstrates that it completely lacked merit,” the trustees said. “The filing of the Complaint was premised upon the idea that we would personally have to pay for our defense and that the financial cost of that would drive us from office. [Township insurance paid the cost.] But when we were able to mount a defense, they chose not to proceed.”
Leneghan and Gemperline did lament the damage to their reputations that may be irreparable as a result of the complaint.
It was alleged by several locals that some SOS supporters gathering signatures may have misled residents as to the reason for the petitions. Some in Liberty Township who signed were under the impression the document was to save fire and EMS services, when in reality it was a petition to remove the two trustees from office. Responses to an SOS post would indicate that impression was correct.
Joe Stoutenberg asked SOS, “Possibly an unpopular viewpoint: what was the mission of SOS? Was it to remove Trustees Leneghan and Gemperline? Or was it to prevent outsourcing EMS to the county? Do you believe that the threat is sufficiently passed to take off the pressure?”
One resident who didn’t want to be named referred to the entire lawsuit as a “Democrat Op” and The Ohio Star verified that petitioner and spokesman for SOS, Nico Franano, is a registered Democrat who also worked as the political advisor for Democratic Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus.
If it was a “Democrat Op” it appears it was unsuccessful. Angry residents had questions.
“At minimum, an explanation for why you can’t be more transparent with the rationale would be valuable. Is it for legal reasons?” one resident, Mandar Maskar, asked.
Susan Elizabeth wrote, “Again I say BS! This is the biggest pile of BS! 4,062 registered voters signed this position & THIS is how you treat it?? By stringing us along! I have lost all respect for all of you!”
Another resident reached out to The Ohio Star, requesting anonymity. The individual shared the origination of the lawsuit.
“I’ve followed this circus created, in my opinion, by Shyra Eichhorn [the third trustee] and her patsies. Everybody knows that trustee Shyra Eichhorn started this by creating a false catastrophe. Although she has pretended no to be part of this, she is in fact behind all of this and should be ashamed of herself,” the resident claimed.
The Ohio Star was able to confirm Eichhorn’s close friend, Becca Mount, was co-petitioner with Nico Franano in the lawsuit, seen in a video of the hearing by NBC4.
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