Members of Portsmouth City Council were served with an injunction during Tuesday’s Special Session meeting. The injunction was presented by City Solicitor John Haas on behalf of himself and City Manager Derek Allen. Haas explained what the injunction entailed and informed citizens and Council alike that no further action would be taken regarding the firing of Allen until the deposition set to take place on February 14th and 1 p.m in Judge Harcha’s courtroom.
“I just want to bring it to everyone’s attention that I stated back several meetings ago that as a Solicitor for the city of Portsmouth I represent the City, I represent Council, I represent the City Manager,” Haas said. “At the time I didn’t believe I had a conflict of interest with the issue that was going on, with the firing of the City Manager. My hopes were, and I’ve indicated this to all the parties, that they would get this resolved in mediation and if they didn’t, I would be in a situation where at that point in time I would have a conflict. I do have a conflict of interest now. Earlier today I filed suit on behalf of Mr. Allen and myself against City Council, claiming violations of the City Charter. I asked for a temporary restraining order a preliminary injunction and Judge Harcha signed off on that. So at this point in time Mr. Allen is back in the job, and he will remain that way until, at least until we have a hearing on February 14th at 1 o’clock in Judge Harcha’s courtroom on the existence of this ex parte preliminary injunction. We are in a conflict situation now, and because I knew that council had mentioned that they wanted to hire Mark McCown before, I didn’t have a problem with that. I’ve known Mr. McCown for a long time I have a great deal of respect for him, he’s a very good lawyer. I spoke with him yesterday, I sent him a copy of a draft that was very similar to the copy I filed today so he can start getting prepared. So when this was filed, which I told him I was going to file, what I was going to do, that he would be able to get to speed really quickly so he’s not hamstrung in any way. From now until the time of the hearing on the 14th we will probably be involved in depositions, I indicated to Mr. McCown that I wanted to depose all the members of council and we will do that before the 14th.”
”I also indicated to Mr. McCown, when we discussed his hourly figure, hourly rate and what he wanted as a retainer, that when this very very similar action happened in 1980 the lawyer fee for outside council in that case ended up in litigation and it was $49,000. That was in 1980, so that’s where the $50,000 figure came from. That case ended up going to the Ohio Supreme Court, it worked its way all the way up. So, that’s where we find ourselves today. There’s an order enjoining Council from taking any action in general against Mr. Allen until this case is resolved,” Haas stated.
Following Haas’ elaboration on the presented injunction, Mayor Kalb asked if a public hearing would still be held. Haas stated that those proceedings would be put aside, per the injunction.
“So the people aren’t going to hear both sides of the whole issue as they’ve been waiting for forever?,” Kalb questioned.
Haas again stated that the hearing would be halted until the case was resolved.
“The issue that I filled on has nothing to do with whether the allegations are true or false,” Haas explained.
According to Haas, the court that granted the injunction reviewed the motion with an affidavit, emails, charter sections, minutes, agendas and other exhibits presented in the filing and determined that the issue of the case is, ‘did council violate the charter or their own rules when they attempted to fire Allen in the way they attempted to fire him?’
In order to get an injunction the court has to determine the plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of the case.
”We got an injunction. There are five or six reasons, or instances, that I laid out in my complaint and in the motion where I believe that City Council violated the charter, their rules, and the Ohio Revised Code,” Haas said.
The Solicitor further explained that Council did not consult with him before attempting to terminate Allen.
“I would also like it noted that prior to December 18, Council did not seek any legal advice from me before they did what they did. So that is why I feel that I have a conflict at this point, as the City Solicitor it is my choice who I want to represent in this case. I can represent the City Council, or I can represent Mr. Allen and I chose to represent Mr. Allen’s side in this case. That tells you where I stand on this issue,” stated Haas.
After the adjournment of the Special Session, Haas told the Daily Times that part of the process to obtain the injunction required proving irreparable damage if Allen is not put back in the job.
“It’s really the fact that there are things in the city that need to be done, that only he has the knowledge to do,” Haas said.
Post-meeting Mayor Kalb expressed his disappointment to the Daily Times regarding the postponement of the public hearing.
“We were served as we came in the front doors of the chambers, I kind of expected something like this.” said Mayor Kalb, “I don’t want to say I was looking forward to a public hearing, but that would have been an opportunity (for the public) to get some answers. There is so much I would like to say, just to enlighten people, maybe they would see things differently, maybe they wouldn’t, but at least I would know they had more of the facts then what they’re basing their assumptions on now,” said Kalb. “We tried to go by procedure and now we’re being subjected to, we didn’t do it right and we’ll just have to answer that as it comes to it. I’m sure that’s what a lot of this injunction is and what the hearing is about. I wasn’t surprised by this happening.”
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932