NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (April 11, 2022) – Attorneys stated their cases Monday in one of the cases of Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen versus the city of Dover. However, there are many more legal documents and several other cases to get through before the disputes between the parties are resolved.
Monday, Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Ernest listened to lawyers from both sides argue about the mayor’s termination of three employees in December. Council approved an agreement to bring them back, but Homrighausen’s attorney Drew Piersall objected to the settlement’s admission that Homrighausen fired the employees in retaliation for testimony they provided that implicated the mayor in unlawful acts.
“There’s any number of provisions in that settlement agreement that admit liability on behalf of the mayor,” he said. “So there’s a clear violation of Mayor Homrighausen’s role as the appointing authority that render that settlement agreement illegal, null and void.”
Dover Attorney Delores Garcia argued the State Personnel Board of Review has already approved the settlement agreement, so Homrighausen’s request for legal representation is moot.
“In light of the settlement having been reviewed and approved by the State Personnel Board of Review, it’s unclear what he’s asking for legal representation for,” she said. “He clearly was able to retain legal representation for this action and for his appeal of the State Personnel Board of Review, and an additional lawsuit that he has against the city related to the settlement.”
Piersall claimed too much time had passed between the employees’ testimony in a Council investigation and their termination to legally call it a case of whistleblower retaliation.
“The report was released publicly in May of 2021,” Piersall said in court. “Nothing happened – June, July, August, September, October, November. Then we get into December. Mayor Homrighausen terminates the employees on Dec. 21, so that’s a passage of approximately eight months.”
Garcia argued the mayor fired the employees soon after hearing from the state auditor’s office that he was the subject of a criminal investigation.
“When they indicated, quote, that ‘nothing happened,’ in fact, on Nov. 22, the mayor was served with a targetive investigation letter, that he was provided with an operative plea from the State Auditor’s Office on Dec. 2, and then on Dec. 15, the prosecutor again contacted Mayor Homrighausen, and then, a few days later, he, shortly before Christmas, terminated the employees that had filed affidavits in a public investigation,” she said.
At issue in the case argued Monday is Homrighauen’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the settlement, and his request for the city to pay his legal bills as he fights the settlement in court and before the State Personnel Board of Review.
Meanwhile, Homrighausen is involved in four other open Common Pleas Court cases.
Two of them filed Friday involve appealing the State Personnel Board of Review’s approval of the settlement with the employees.
Another, filed last week, is a second civil complaint against the city and the employees that also attempts to block the settlement.
The fifth case involving Homrighausen is a criminal indictment. A grand jury indicted Homrighausen in March on 15 counts, including theft in office among eight felonies. He pleaded not guilty March 30th. There’s a telephone pretrial scheduled for April 18th in the criminal case.
Council meeting Monday
Dover City Council Monday evening will discuss paying for additional legal representation to defend the city against litigation filed by the mayor.
Council has meetings this evening starting at 6:30 where members will address a request by law director Doug O’Meara to retain legal counsel for pending and potential litigation from the mayor.
The Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 883 6451 9800