NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (January 23, 2023) – Richard Homrighausen is still holding onto the chance that he could return to the Dover mayor’s office later this year.
Homrighausen is disqualified from holding public office following his recent conviction and sentencing for felony theft in office.
However, his attorney, Jonathan Downes, believes Homrighausen could successfully appeal and return to office. He even argued Homrighausen right now maintains a claim to the mayor’s title, despite the conviction, disqualification, and previous suspension that stripped him of authority.
“Disqualification is not removal,” Downes said. “He has not been removed from office. He’s been disqualified.”
Downes was speaking at a status conference Monday for three cases involving Homrighausen’s firing of three key city employees over a year ago.
Council agreed to bring those employees back, and Homrighausen sued and appealed last spring to block the agreement.
Judge Michael Ernest paused those cases while Homrighausen went on trial.
Should civil complaints advance?
Monday’s hearing addressed if the cases should move forward. Homrighausen wants them paused pending his appeal in the criminal case.
“Rule on this could be in conflict with what would happen in an appeal,” Downes said. “If there is an appeal, and the mayor is successful on his appeal, we don’t want to have to come back and unwind the clock.”
City attorney Delores Garcia suggested Homrighausen’s appeals aren’t likely to be successful.
“This is a verdict from a jury trial,” she said. “I don’t know … if there are significant enough concerns that are going up on appeal that make is a probability that this would come back. I would just urge the court to consider not just the possibility but the probability that this reemerges.”
She wants Ernest to dismiss the cases now, based on Homrighausen’s disqualification from office.
“There is no basis,” Garcia said. “(Homrighausen) no longer has the rights, authorities, or responsibilities of the office. He no longer has the title of the office. The operative language in the statute is not pending the final outcome of any appeal, it’s upon finding of guilty.”
Downes said the city and its employees would not be harmed if Ernest pauses the cases. Garcia disagreed.
“There are three public employees who have been trying to do their jobs, and this has been a cloud,” she said. “Continuing a stay that keeps them in this further state of limbo and uncertainty I think is not fair.”
The city is also countersuing for the $78,000 it paid Homrighausen during his eight-month paid suspension.
Ernest Monday said he would consider the arguments and make a decision soon on how those cases will move forward.
Homrighausen speaks in court
Homrighausen, who did not speak during his criminal trial, is representing himself in two of the three cases – both appeals. He read a statement.
“The settlement agreement admits liability on my behalf without my approval, and I am now trying to correct that,” he said.
Later, he added, “The three employees that are mentioned are my appointments, or were my appointments, and they were at-will employees, so there was not an illegal discharge of those employees.”
Council members, who approved the agreement, have accused Homrighausen of firing those employees unlawfully and in retaliation for their cooperation in the investigation that ultimately led to Homrighausen’s criminal convictions.