If you haven’t read it, take a minute to read this incredibly well-written letter that Councilwoman Laura Pizmoht sent to Mayor Weger in response to his crazy attempt to remove City Council.
While I’m sympathetic that you’re frustrated that a majority of Council supports policies and legislation that you don’t like, sending threatening letters to Council Members is not a productive way to deal with that. In fact, sending threatening letters like the one you delivered to Council Members yesterday or memos like your August 30, 2018 veto memo to government officials is a felony:
(A) No person … by filing, recording, or otherwise using a materially false or fraudulent writing with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner, shall attempt to influence, intimidate, or hinder a public servant … in the discharge of the person’s duty.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of intimidation, a felony of the third degree.
Mayor, in your memo dated August 30, 2018, you falsely claimed you have the legal authority to remove members of the City’s legislature. You falsely claimed Council Members who lawfully exercised their rights under the Charter to vote to submit proposed Charter Amendments to the voters were acting inappropriately simply because you didn’t agree with their position. You threatened to remove these Council Members if they exercised those Charter-given rights and made the profoundly false claim that Council Members have no rights to due process:
“if Council decides to exercise their right to present these Charter amendments for ballot consideration, I may have no option but to exercise my current right to plan for this removal. Incidentally, there is no due process provided to Council members either.”
Then, yesterday, October 3, 2018, a month after Council Members exercised their right to vote to submit those charter amendments to the voters, you delivered a letter to these Council Members falsely claiming you have the legal authority to remove them again without due process. In that letter, you also falsely claim these Council Members committed gross misconduct because they did things like vote for ordinances you didn’t like. Again, it is the felony of intimidation to threaten or intimidate public officials with the intent of preventing them from doing their job.
It is also a felony to follow through with such a threat.
(A) No person, purposely and by force or by unlawful threat of harm to any person or property, shall retaliate against a public servant … because the public servant … discharged the duties of the public servant.
(C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of retaliation, a felony of the third degree.
You unlawfully threatened to remove from office and stop paying public servants for their dedicated work on behalf of the residents of Willoughby Hills simply because you didn’t like the policies they furthered. Besides Council Members, you locked another public servant, the Council Clerk, out of her office with the intent to prevent her from doing her job. You directed Councilman Hallum to inform her that she was going to be fired for working on behalf of the Council Members you claimed to have removed. You prevented her from discharging the duties prescribed to her as Council Clerk under our Charter and you threatened to take her job away because she was discharging those duties under the Charter.
Now back to your October 3, 2018 letter. Let me be clear: that letter has no legal authority whatsoever. It is crazy words on paper and nothing more. Our Charter makes clear that only Council is the judge of its members.
Section 3.15 Removal from Office. The Council shall have the power to remove or expel from office any of its members in accordance with provisions outlined in Section 9.32. [emphasis added.]
Section 9.32 Removal by Council. Council shall be the judge of the election of and qualifications of its own members. [emphasis added.]
What you’ve attempted to do is so fundamentally wrong that it should be unnecessary to inscribe it in our Charter. There is no American mayor, governor or president who has this power and certainly none has ever displayed such contempt for the separation of powers. Think about it: if a mayor or executive could remove even one legislator who disagreed with him, that would make that mayor a king or a dictator and as our forefathers fought a bloody war over their contempt for such concentrated power, surely the Willoughby Hills City Charter did not intend for the Mayor of Willoughby Hills to be a tyrant.
Consequently, no matter how much you wish it weren’t so, Council President Fellows, Council Vice President Plecnik, Councilwoman Janet Majka, Councilwoman Laura Lenz, Councilman Dave Fiebig and I will continue to serve the residents in our official capacities.
Besides the felonies described above, anything you do to prevent us from executing our Charter-prescribed duties – removing our access to City email, preventing us from conducting meetings, removing our contact information from the City website – is a crime:
525.07 OBSTRUCTING OFFICIAL BUSINESS.
(a) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of obstructing official business. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection (b), obstructing official business is a misdemeanor of the second degree. If a violation of this section creates a risk of physical harm to any person, obstructing official business is a felony and shall be prosecuted under appropriate State law.
2921.44 Dereliction of duty.
(E) No public servant shall recklessly fail to perform a duty expressly imposed by law with respect to the public servant’s office, or recklessly do any act expressly forbidden by law with respect to the public servant’s office.
If these crimes are not prosecuted or the enforcement of this law is in any way compromised, that in and of itself is the crime of dereliction of duty as well as:
2921.32 Obstructing justice.
(A) No person, with purpose to hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for crime or to assist another to benefit from the commission of a crime … shall do any of the following:
(3) Warn the other person of impending discovery or apprehension;
(4) Destroy or conceal physical evidence of the crime or act, or induce any person to withhold testimony or information or to elude legal process summoning the person to testify or supply evidence;
(5) Communicate false information to any person;
(6) Prevent or obstruct any person, by means of force, intimidation, or deception, from performing any act to aid in the discovery, apprehension, or prosecution of the other person.
Lastly, you claim Councilman Hallum alone can act on behalf of the body of Council. That is false. Council is a body and may only act at a public meeting with a quorum present. Councilman Hallum alone cannot choose replacement council members EVEN IF six members of Council were removed from office. Because there is no possible quorum, there is no possibility for Council to act. Again, if one person could act as the entire legislature, we’re back in tyrant territory. That is so fundamentally wrong it shouldn’t have to be written down. Also, it would violate the Sunshine laws.
Councilwoman Laura Pizmoht