A group of Geauga County residents took off on a road trip Sunday, heading to the Ohio Statehouse, in Columbus with what may be the first attempt to remove a certain public official from office.
Armed with petitions containing nearly 900 signatures, the group called Protect Geauga Parks intended to hold meetings with as many legislators as possible to state their cause for the removal of Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell.
A provision in state law allows state legislators to take action to remove a public official and group members have said that they have the evidence needed to convince legislators. They named seven reasons, including the judge’s commandeering of the Geauga Park District newsletter, his reported involvement in re-writing park bylaws and the constant changing of park board members.
“Timothy J. Grendell has overstepped his statutory authority as probate judge, is deliberately and harmfully ignoring the will of the people, and is wrongfully imposing his personal and political vision upon the Geauga Park District,” the petition states. “The actions of Timothy J. Grendell are an improper aggrandizement of the powers of the office of probate judge and an abuse of the prestige of that office designed to gain control over the Geauga Park District. Timothy J. Grendell has undermined public respect for the office of probate judge and has caused serious and substantial harm to the Geauga Park District.”
The group began the petition drive at the Great Geauga County Fair and continued it through the year online. Kathryn Hanratty, Chardon Township resident and president of Protect Geauga Parks, said the latest count showed 394 written petition signers and another 502 online. She said she anticipated more, but had not completed the tabulations by last Saturday.
At the time, Judge Grendell dismissed the petition drive, saying it would only “waste legislators’ time.
“Ms. Hanratty and her small group of malcontents want to undo the vote of more than 20,000 Geauga County residents that elected me judge,” Judge Grendell said. “I received over 70 percent of the vote in my last contested election for judge. It is a shame that these few are wasting our legislators’ valuable time with a frivolous and factually false petition. Ms. Hanratty and her followers have raised all of these allegations in grievances filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, all of which grievances have been summarily dismissed as meritless.
“Ms. Hanratty and her crew do not want Geauga County children and families to use their county parks, even though our taxpayers have spent over $100 million for these parks. It is unfortunate for all Geauga County residents to have to keep paying for this group to slander me and the park district just because they are not getting what they want – their own private reserve.”
The group accused the judge of using the newsletter to promote himself and a candidate for the Geauga County Commissioner, removing park board members who disagreed with him, getting involved in rewriting park bylaws, securing employment in his court for loyal park board members, working personally to suspend a park levy and undermining the public confidence by using “derogatory and demeaning language” against those who speak up against him.
Edward Buckles, a Troy Township resident and member of the Protect Geauga Parks group, said the group planned to drive down to Columbus in two- or three-person teams, each armed with the names of the 140 senators and representatives. “We plan on getting to see as many as we can,” he said.
In addition to the petitions, Mr. Buckles said the group plans to provide a statement from the group, a newspaper editorial calling for the removal of the judge from park oversight and the group’s mission statement.