Ohio Supreme Court to help with fire union’s complaint against chief
The union filed a complaint alleging that Chief Angelo Calvillo had committed a misdemeanor crime by violating provisions in the city’s charter
By Robert Higgs
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
CLEVELAND — Cleveland Municipal Judge Michelle D. Earley has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to appoint a visiting judge to review the criminal complaint Cleveland’s firefighters’ union has filed against the city’s fire chief.
In a statement sent to cleveland.com on Monday, Earley said she asked for the visiting judge to avoid any questions about the impartiality of the court, which is an arm of city government.
“While I’m completely confident any judge on the Cleveland Municipal Court bench could judiciously review the submitted affidavit, to avoid any appearance of impropriety and in the interest of justice, the Supreme Court of Ohio has been contacted to assign a visiting judge,” Earley wrote.
The union filed a complaint Aug. 23 alleging that Chief Angelo Calvillo had committed a misdemeanor crime by violating provisions in the city’s charter that bar civil service employees from politicking.
During a deposition in 2017, Calvillo testified that while off duty he had helped circulate petitions for Mayor Frank Jackson’s re-election.
Law Director Barbara Langhenry has disputed the union’s legal analysis and said the chief had done nothing improper.
The timetable for appointment of the visiting judge is uncertain, but attorney Joseph Diemert, who represents the Association of Cleveland Firefighters, expects it will be done quickly. He said he intended to follow up immediately with the Supreme Court.
Diemert, in an email to cleveland.com, said he hopes this means the visiting judge will take up the case and that it won’t be referred for review to a city prosecutor. The union has said that if that were to happen, it would seek to have an outside prosecutor take over the case.
The city prosecutor ultimately works for Langhenry, who, like Calvillo, is a member of Jackson’s cabinet.
"I would expect the visiting judge would not send it to the local prosecutor, but, per the statute, make a decision as to whether or not it should be prosecuted,” Diemert wrote in his email. “Then, either the county or a visiting prosecutor would handle it.”
The day before filing the affidavit, the union sued the city in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, asking that a judge order the city to enforce terms of Cleveland’s charter prohibiting civil service employees from engaging in political activity.
©2019 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland