WOODMERE — The end of the year brought a flurry of emails back and forth between the Village Council members, Law Director Frank Consolo, other members of the administration and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
Petitions to recall Councilwomen Jennifer Mitchell Earley, Lisa Brockwell and Glenda Todd Miller and Councilman Craig Wade were validated in late 2020. All four council members did not resign, so according to the village charter, the next step is to schedule a recall election. In a Dec. 31 memo, Mark Musson, the assistant prosecuting attorney for the board of elections, advised the village to schedule the recall election.
Ms. Brockwell filed a protest against the petitions, which led Mr. Consolo to schedule a hearing on the protest on Jan. 7. The hearing was later canceled after Mr. Musson advised Mr. Consolo to do so. Some of the council members said that they are frustrated with how the law director has handled the recall election.
“I find it deeply disturbing that at every turn, whether it be procedural, process, or the statement by which signatures were collected, there have been multiple irregularities and unlawful practices allowed – despite obvious violations of Ohio election laws,” Ms. Earley wrote in a Dec. 24 email. “The gross mismanagement of this process is almost negligent. I think council [may] consider securing outside counsel familiar with municipal and/or election law.”
In Ms. Brockwell’s protest against the recall petitions, she said that there were several “legal issues” and false statements, including a claim that these four council members have a personal agenda that does not align with the best interests of the village. Mr. Consolo wrote that Ms. Brockwell would have the burden of showing that Rachel Kabb Effron, the attorney representing the petitioners, knowingly made false statements.
“[Ms. Earley], and [Ms.] Brockwell and [Mr.] Wade, over the last several days have insisted and demanded that I, on my own, compare the statements in the recall petitions with the exhibits attached to the Brockwell protest and make a ruling in your favor – that the statements in the petition are false and therefore the statute has been violated,” Mr. Consolo wrote in a Dec. 29 email. “What the three of you keep demanding that I do is unlawful. I cannot, and will not be, threatened, brow-beaten and bullied into doing any such thing.”
Mr. Musson said that Ms. Brockwell’s protest was filed “prematurely” and “in the wrong venue.” He explained that under the village charter and Ohio law, there is no procedural mechanism to challenge the petitions at this point. Once the village schedules the recall election, he said, the board of elections must accept the petitions to be placed on the ballot unless an interested party files a protest. At that time, the board of elections would hold a hearing.
“For the foregoing reasons, I urge you to cancel the hearing on the protest scheduled for Jan. 7, 2021 and urge the Village Council to fulfill its legal duty to schedule the election and place the matter before the [board of elections],” Mr. Musson wrote.
The next council meeting is Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.