In the Grafton Township separation of powers case filed by Township Supervisor Linda Moore against her Township Trustees, Moore largely won.
Judge Caldwell wrote,
“What was done here by this board to the supervisor was not a policy but rather a deliberate usurpation of the supervisor’s authority and a clear case of unnecessary meddling and illegal micromanaging.”
On the other hand, the power of the Township Trustees to set the agenda, meeting times and places, plus award contracts and set employee salaries was affirmed.
Labeling the relationships “dysfunctional,” Judge Michael Caldwell ordered Trustees Betty Zirk, Gerald McMahon, Rob LaPorta and Barbara Murphy not to
- implement or attempt to implement the position of Township Administrator
- employ or attempt to employ Pamela Fender in the position of Township Administrator or in any other capacity
employ or attempt to employ Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush Dicianni & Krafthefer as township attorneys
- require that the Township Supervisor secure the advice and consent or approval of the township board before hiring any employee
- require that the Township Supervisor secure the advice and consent or approval of the township board [before] the firing or discharge of any employee
- require that the Township Supervisor secure the advice and consent or approval of the township board [before] the firing or discharge of the township attorney
- interfere, hinder, obstruct “Moore in the exercise of her duties as Township Supervisor and Chief Executive Officer including, but not limited to, the day-to-day organization and operation of the township offices, access to township business records, data and information of any kind and the computers used for the storage and creation of same, the preparation of agendas for township board meetings, the calling of special meetings and the posting of notices therefore”
Moore was forbidden from
- “removing, taking or transporting, secreting or concealing any township financial records, computer disc drives or computer-stored information by any means from the township offices
- “hindering, obstructing or preventing or attempting to hinder, obstruct or prevent access” of the Township Trustees to “official records…including but not limited to, all financial information regarding the business and operations of the township
- “failing to promptly present for consideration by the board of trustees”…”all bills, statement and invoices for goods and services rendered to the township.”
The Judge devotes most of his opinion to a summary of the facts and testimony, including the entire job description of Township Administrator Pam Fender, and relevant portions of the Township Code.
He points out that Moore “began her assault on the status quo in Grafton Township with a legal challenge to the township’s announced plans to issue bonds for the construction of at $3,00,000 town hall.’”
Caldwell notes Moore participation in the lawsuit to stop construction and her filing for office against incumbent Republican Supervisor John Rossi and her victory in both efforts. He notes that the Trustees spent $88,000 on attorney’s fees defending the new town hall. Half was spent in the case in which Judge Caldwell sided with Moore and her fellow plaintiffs and the other half was spent in the Trustees unsuccessful appeal.
“That is when the genesis of this lawsuit began,” he writes.
“Judging from the testimony elicited at the hearings before me, Moore’s term was marked by
- conflict and
- outright hostility
from the very outset. She and the trustees battled over meeting notices, agendas, audits, access to public records and just about every facet of township government imaginable.”
He notes using Latin words I don’t understand even after two years of that language (sui generis rules) that the board stopped using Robert’s Rules of Order.
He points to the hiring of Pam Fender to be Township Administrator and installing her in Moore’s office.
Then, Moore filed her lawsuit and the trustees filed a counterclaim.
Reached for comment, Moore said,
“Until I hear from my attorney, it appears this ruling will enable me to do the job of Supervisor which is what the electors put me in office to do.”
Moore’s attorney is John Nelson. Thomas DiCianni represented the Township Trustees.