Court restrains Willoughby Hills mayor from removing council members

October 9, 2018

Court restrains Willoughby Hills mayor from removing council members

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio – Six Willoughby Hills city council members got a restraining order Tuesday morning that keeps them in office, despite efforts by Mayor Robert Weger to remove them.

Five of the six removed council members who Weger is trying to remove, filed suit in Lake County Common Pleas Court late last week to get the temporary restraining order.

The order was issued by visiting Judge  David Fuhry, retired from Geauga County Common Pleas Court, who had heard previous cases filed between council and the mayor. 

The order said: “defendant Mayor Robert Weger’s actions in removing plaintiff council members are stayed pending further order of Court, the affected council members and their legislative employees are accordingly restored to their positions with all attendant powers and privileges including but not limited to free access to the municipal building and offices.”

Lake County Judge Vincent Culotta, who was assigned the suit, recused himself and the case passed to Fuhry, who had heard previous cases between the mayor and council. 

Fuhry already issued opinions in two suits brought by Weger that voided legislation  passed by the council members.

One of those decisions is up on appeal and the other is slated for a further hearing in January. The legislation dealt with council’s involvement in negotiating union contracts.

Laura Pizmoht, one of the six council members said around noon, she and her colleagues still do not have unfettered access to city hall.

Weger had the locks changed last week and ordered the removal of the council members photos from the city hall lobby.

Council’s suit was brought by members John Plecnik, Pizmoht, Janet Majka, David Fiebig and Nancy Fellows. Pizmoht said last week that council member Laura Lenz’s name was omitted in error and her name will be added.

Councilman Christopher Hallum was the only member that Weger did not attempt to remove.

The mayor said in an earlier interview that he wanted the council members removed because they had paralyzed the city’s government by cutting funds and personnel.

Council’s suit called Weger’s actions unlawful because the charter and state law call for hearings and a formal bill of charges before any official can be removed.

Weger said the council members could be removed because they were guilty of mis-, mal- and non-feasance. He said he had the authority because of charter language that was approved by the voters.

Pizmoht said yesterday that “passing ordinance is not misconduct, but blocking public officials from doing their jobs is a crime.”

Plecnik said, “the residents of Willloughby Hills are relieved that their right to vote has been restored,” because the council representatives they chose are back in office.

A council meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, following a 6 p.m. town hall meeting.

Weger declined to comment on the court’s most recent decision.

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