DOVER (WJER) (July 18, 2023) – City officials hope Monday’s court hearing brings about the end of their legal entanglements with former Mayor Richard Homrighausen.
His attorneys believe the fight is not over.
Homrighausen is suing the city to invalidate a settlement agreement with three employees he had fired while in office. The city is suing Homrighausen for over $100,000 for salary and benefits he received while suspended last year and for past wedding payments.
Attorneys for both sides argued their cases in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Ernest’s courtroom Monday, trying to convince him to rule in their favor.
The case began in April of last year when Homrighausen filed a complaint against the city, the law director, and three employees.
Homrighausen has since been suspended and disqualified from office following an indictment and conviction for theft in office.
Even though his client is no longer mayor, Homrighausen’s attorney Jonathan Downes still argued against that settlement Monday. It returned those three employees to work three months after Homrighausen fired them.
Downes says it illegally usurped the then-mayor’s authority and creates a liability issue for his client.
Downes says Homrighausen is not asking the court to remove those employees from their jobs.
“We are not asking for anything from the employees. We’re simply asking the court to set aside what is clearly an erroneous and invalid usurpation of power… We’re basically asking this court to set aside the settlement agreement. If the [current] mayor continues them in their employment, that’s his prerogative.”
The city’s argument
The city’s hired attorney, Robin Wilson, on Monday argued Homrighausen’s lawsuit should be dismissed because, among other reasons, he’s no longer mayor.
The city is also countersuing Homrighausen for almost $109,000 – $77,802.06 in salary and benefits he received while suspended last year and $30,875 the city claims he collected in wedding payments instead of depositing into city accounts.
“He’s been convicted. His right to be the mayor is gone. There’s nothing staying that. And therefore, since nothing is staying that, nothing is staying the city’s right to receive the money that the city taxpayers paid to somebody who is no longer a public official.”
Downes argued Homrighausen is appealing his criminal conviction for theft in office, which led to his disqualification. He wants Ernest to wait until that’s resolved before ruling on the civil case.
Ernest will preside over a bench trial, potentially in late August, if Monday’s arguments weren’t enough to convince him to issue a ruling sooner.