Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr addresses WKYC investigator’s reports

August 29, 2018

Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr addresses WKYC investigator’s reports

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio -- It has been a tough couple of weeks for longtime Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr.

By a 4-3 vote last week, City Council hired special legal counsel Joe Diemert and Associates to make sure council receives legal documents and law firm invoices that are unobscured by redactions from Starr and his administration.

City Council wants specifics on what legal actions the city is taking and where the money is going.

Former Police Chief John Maddox sued Starr and the city in January. He wants unused sick time pay and also claims defamation and retaliation by Starr. The redacted documents relate to that case and also to investigations purportedly undertaken by Starr about Maddox.

WKYC investigative reporter Tom Meyer aired a story Aug. 21 that directed attention to a $10,000 SACS Consulting invoice that included $2,800 for an “undisclosed investigation.” He also mentioned that interim Safety Director John Ligato lives in North Carolina while holding the Middleburg Heights position.

In response to a cleveland.com request, Starr provided a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The services performed related directly to an investigation regarding jail inspections, and they were protected by attorney-client privilege,” Starr said about the redactions.

Special counsel Joe Diemert spoke with cleveland.com on Tuesday and took issue with Starr’s explanation.

“Middleburg Heights is the named defendant (in the Maddox lawsuit), and as a result, Middleburg Heights is the mayor, the City Council and all the elected and appointed officials,” Diemert said. “So, City Council is equal to the mayor as far as being part of the city. As a client, they have a right to get all un-redacted materials relative to everything.”

Ligato indeed lives in North Carolina, but Starr said he stays with a family member in Fairview Park while performing his duties.

Meyer televised a second report Aug. 22 about a 2014 Loomis armored truck theft that occurred while Starr’s son, Peter, was the driver on duty. The missing $20,000 was never recovered. Peter was cleared of any wrongdoing.

That issue emerged after Peter’s name appeared several times in a deposition contained in the Maddox-Starr lawsuit. Maddox alleged that the mayor sought to eliminate the Police Department polygraph test because Peter wanted to become a Middleburg Heights officer.

Starr maintained Tuesday that he had “nothing to do” with his son’s pursuit of the job.

“He followed the same procedures as every other applicant ... but he was not selected,” Starr said in his email. “At no time did I advocate that the polygraph requirement for police job applicants be dropped. In fact, I advocated for enhanced polygraph testing and other new methods for screening applicants.”

The Maddox-Starr lawsuit was scheduled to go to mediation on Wednesday.

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