CLEVELAND, OH – Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Johnson says he intends to appeal the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decision to suspend him from serving on Cleveland city council at the request of Ohio Attorney General David Yost. Johnson’s attorney in his criminal trial, Myron Watson, told him when Yost’s office filed for the suspension that he was not prosecuting the case and had no legal authority to request it pursuant to the section of the law the attorney general asked the Supreme Court to review.
Section 3.16 of the Revised Code of Ohio gives a prosecutor prosecuting an elected official who has been indicted on felony charges the option of seeking their suspension from discharging the duties of a public office. Johnson is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio after being indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged violations of the United States Code.
If Yost were prosecuting Johnson the criminal charges the Cleveland councilman is facing would have come from the Ohio Revised Code. R.C. 3.16 reads as follows:
(B)(1) If a public official is charged with a felony in a state or federal court and if the attorney general, if the attorney general is prosecuting the case, or prosecuting attorney with responsibility to prosecute the case determines that the felony relates to the public official’s administration of, or conduct in the performance of the duties of, the office of the public official, the attorney general, if the attorney general is prosecuting the case, or prosecuting attorney with responsibility to prosecute the case shall transmit a copy of the charging document to the chief justice of the supreme court with a request that the chief justice proceed as provided in division (C) of this section. If the attorney general or the prosecuting attorney transmits a copy of the charging document to the chief justice, a copy also shall be sent to the attorney general if the prosecuting attorney transmits the copy to the chief justice or to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the public official holds office if the attorney general transmits the copy to the chief justice.
Twice in the unsuspended general law above, written in plain and unambiguous English, Yost was instructed as to when the Ohio Attorney General could excercise the authority granted the public office he holds in R.C. 3.16. “If the attorney general is prosecuting the case” needs no interpretation as it clearly instructed Yost and the state’s supreme court justices that his suspension request was “duty exceeding.” Bridget Brennan is the United States Attorney with the authority to have requested Johnson’s suspension as the attorney general prosecuting the case.
Yost’s suspension announcement was immediately used by the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com without question since the newspaper and website are taking credit for the 17 stories ex-blogger Mark Naymik wrote about Johnson’s monthly expense account as the cause of his indictment. Naymik’s name figures prominently in Garnell Jamison’s complaint to the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Public Integrity about the prosecutors who sought charges against him. Both men are considering calling Naymik and AdvanceOhio vice president Chris Quinn as witnesses. AdvanceOhio is a marketing firm that sells journalism services to clients.
Jamison told EJBNEWS how Naymik’s belief that city council’s monthly expense account is funded with federal dollars from the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is absurd. Jamison and Johnson see Brennan as hanging her hat on a non-existent hat rack when they repeat claims that HUD dollars are used in council’s monthly expense account. Cleveland city council and Mayor Frank Jackson oversee in excess of $2.5 billion in public funds. The $21 million Cleveland’s been receiving from HUD represents less than one percent of the funds the city’s officials oversee.
The false claim was even repeated in Yost’s suspension request by assistant Attorney General Julie Pfeiffer. Yost, as the former Ohio Auditor of State whose audits of Cleveland’s financial records for 8 years never identified any co-mingling of the city’s general operating funds with federal block grant funds, appears to have allowed Pfeiffer to submit a claim before the Supreme Court of Ohio he knew was not true.
Pfeiffer’s request before the Supreme Court of Ohio made the false claim similar to Brennan’s that Title 1 of the Housing & Community Development Act of 1974 authorizes block grant money disbursed by the United States Department of Housing & Urban to be used as “reimbursements to council members for actual expenses.” Jamison’s indictment rests solely on the false claim that the money he received from city council’s expense account was co-mingled with federal dollars.
As EJBNEWS previously reported, had Pfeiffer been directed by Yost to examine page 83 of the Cleveland city council’s 2020 budget, Pfeiffer would have learned that every dime of the legislative authority’s $244,800 for “Expense Account Reimbursement” comes from the city’s “general fund.” The same with Brennan had federal prosecutors looked beyond Naymik’s uninformed reporting for the Plain Dealer and cleveland.com to the language of HUD’s grant management agreement with Cleveland and Yost’s audits for guidance.
Inside city hall sources are pointing fingers at council president Kevin Kelley – one of the Plain Dealer’s trained poodles – for Yost’s “hit” on Johnson. Kelley’s seeking the job of Cleveland mayor and wants the Plain Dealer’s endorsement. His back door conspiracies with other officials are legendary in how he’s obstructed two successful petition drives to halt council’s expenditure of $88 million to renovate the now empty Quicken Loans Arena Lebron James left when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers; and the charter change to shrink council’s size and wages.
City hall insiders point to how Kelley is throwing Johnson to the wolves instead of defending him or remaining neutral. Kelley is pitching the same solutions as those calling for Johnson to step down. If a probate county judge gets to appoint Johnson’s replacement, let it be someone a handful of Ward 4 special interests want to finish out his term who promises not to seek the job. Let it not be anyone Johnson wants.
Johnson told EJBNEWS he is seeking to be re-elected and to prevail in his criminal trial. Yost has already confirmed in 8 successive audits of Cleveland’s finances that director of finance Sharon Dumas did not co-mingle federal funds to pay council’s monthly expense account out of Title 1 community development block grant money from HUD.
There are a multitude of federal and state laws and regulations, as well as
budgets and audits, which exist in agreement with Johnson and Jamison that not a dime of council’s monthly expense account money was or is paid with federal block grant funds. Johnson has 14 days to appeal the Supreme Court of Ohio’s acceptance of the false information the state’s top judges were supplied by Yost’s subordinate.
Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge Anthony Russo, meanwhile, has been assigned by the state to handle the selection of Johnson’s replacement should the decision to suspend him from discharging the duties of the public office to which he was elected stands. Below is language from the Probate Court’s website about the replacement process.
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 3.16(E)(4) the Cuyahoga County Probate Court will accept applications for appointment to Cleveland City Council, Ward 4, by mail or email, beginning today, April 22, 2021 through May 7, 2021. Applicants must submit a statement of interest listing the reasons they are interested in the position; their goals if appointed; and why they believe they are the best candidate for the position. A resume and three references should also be included.
This information should be submitted to Presiding Judge Anthony J. Russo, Cuyahoga County Probate Court, Room 221, 1 Lakeside Avenue West, Cleveland OH 44113 or by email to Sue Schwarten, Administrative Assistant to Presiding Judge Anthony J. Russo, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Communication regarding this appointment will be accepted only from applicants for the position, not from any other persons or organizations on the applicants’ behalf.