COMMITTEE VOWS TO RECALL MAYOR Elyria – A group of Elyrian’s upset at the direction their city is heading has had enough and Debbie Coon said they plan to do something about it. “We have formed “Citizens against Grace” and we will be working to recall Mayor Grace beginning the first week of July.” Coon said that the recall has been on the minds of people for some time, but recently they came into possession of a court document that, to them, was the final straw.
“This document is a lawsuit filed by Honey Rothschild against Mayor Grace and Elyria Law Director Pete Shilling for Retaliation, Breach of Contract, Sex and Racial Discrimination in Employment and Sexual Harassment. In it she alleged that Director Shilling Discriminated against her by advancing white employees before her even though she had more time in the office and had never received a bad review at work. It also says that Director Shilling subjected Rothschild and other female co-workers to intimidation.” (Count 34 Page 17; “The plaintiff and her other female co-workers have been subjected to intimidation, shouting, name calling like “fucking females” on the part of Defendant Shilling, their supervisor and the male co-workers who were allowed to yell, shout, embarrass and intimidate the female co-workers at all times including staff meetings.)
According to court documents, Rothschild sued Shilling in July of 2000 for Racial Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. That case was settled in January of 2002 with Rothschild receiving $25,000.00 and her lawyer receiving $15,000.00. Under that agreement Rothschild kept her job and agreed to not discuss the terms of the settlement. Rothschild filed another suit in 2003 after she alleged that Shilling breached the settlement agreement by retaliating against her, and continued to sexually harass her.
The 43 Count lawsuit, filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in September of 2003 and heard by Judge Edward Zaleski, said that Rothschild “brought her allegations of unlawful acts on the part of the Law Director to the attention of the City’s EEO Officer in December 1999, Mayor Grace refused to investigate as required by law and failed to perform his duties and responsibilities as the chief executive officer of the City of Elyria.” Coon said that is simply unacceptable and that Mayor Grace failed in his duties. “She took this to Mayor Grace and he essentially shoved it to the side and did nothing about it. I believe that Mayor Grace should have, because the complaint was against the Law Director, requested someone from the outside to come in and investigate the claims. This proves that our Mayor does not like people from the outside knowing what happens in his administration, he doesn’t like having to answer to the people of Elyria.”
Pam Jantzen, another committee member, said she was disgusted after reading the court document. “As a woman I was very disturbed that something like this happened in our community and that our Mayor would not do anything to help her. She clearly turned to him for help on a couple different occasions and he turned her away and sent her back to Mr. Shilling.”
Jantzen points to Counts 6, 39 & 40 as the most disturbing to her. (Count 6 Page 8; “the Defendant Shilling, Law Director of the City of Elyria, in retaliation for filing sexual harassment charges against him, sent Plaintiff a, memo containing pornographic materials meant to shock and disgust her under the pretext of giving her an assignment to review criminal laws during a time when she was assigned to do civil work; Mr. Shilling tricked Plaintiff into reading the first part of the said pornographic materials; which includes vulgar references to female and male genitals and description of sex acts that disgusted and shocked Plaintiff and caused her anguish and humiliation.” Count 39 Page 18 & 19; “That her co-workers have complained to Plaintiff about Defendant Shilling’s unwanted sexual advances, including but not limited to, touching them, kissing them, asking them their sexual preferences.” Count 40 Page 19; “That her co-workers have complained to Plaintiff that they have had to shorten their work hours to avoid contact with Mr. Shilling, their supervisor, and at times have to avoid going to off site seminars and bar association conventions for fear that the Law Director will make unwanted sexual advances toward them during these trips.”
“Women and African-American’s in this community should be outraged by what happened in that office and the fact that our Mayor did nothing to help this woman, to me is appalling.”
Coon said in any Government agency you must operate in the open and talk to the people you serve. “He doesn’t like his business to be out in the open, but when you are in a position as he is in, and there are documents out there like this one, you can try to hide them but someone will find them. You can hide whatever you want but just because you are Bill Grace doesn’t mean that you are untouchable.”
The committee is also upset over the actions taken by Mayor Grace concerning the Elyria Fire Department. Jantzen said some of the committee members live in District 2 and fear that with the closing of Station 2 their homes and lives may be at risk. “His (the Mayor) feeling is that even with only 14 guys on, instead of the 17, that the city and District 2 is still very safe and we all know that is not true. He has told me that where I live Station 1 is just as close to my house as 2’s but I know that is not right. I have had to use the Fire Department and although they did a great job it did take longer for them to get there because they came from downtown instead of E. Broad Street.”
The committee will have to wait until the first week of July to officially begin their recall efforts. By law they must wait 6 months from the time the person they want to recall is sworn into office. The committee will have to secure 20% of the number of people who voted for Mayor in the last election, which would be approximately 1,600 names. Once they have the names certified by the Board of Elections Coon said they would have to present it to the Elyria City Council and they would have to accept it. “If they accept it then the Mayor would have 5 days to either resign or chose to fight the recall and a special recall vote would be scheduled.”
In a sit down interview on Friday, TMCNEWS.NET informed Mayor Grace of the recall committee’s intentions and although he said it was unfortunate that they would feel the need to do something like this, he will continue working hard on moving the city of Elyria forward. “It’s frustrating because I know and the people around me know how hard I work and the team around me work – and all things considered I believe that we are doing an absolute exceptional job for the city given all the circumstances that are largely outside of our control. So it’s frustrating when people don’t agree or understand that and I certainly appreciate and understand and know that people make their judgment based on far less then all the information and it’s not even fair or practical for them to understand things at the depth that many of us do.”
The hot button topic recently has been the seemingly never-ending battle between City Hall and the Elyria Fire Department. In response to those who say it is Mayor Graces’s fault that Station 2 has been closed since the lowering of the Fire Departments minimum manpower back in August, the Mayor said that is an action of the Chief. “I’ve not been quick to distance myself from the charge that I closed the Station, I don’t run away from that because it’s a likely consequence of lowering staffing from 17 to 14, so I don’t shy away from that but that is an action of the Chief.”
When it comes to the question of response times in Station Two’s district Mayor Grace said that the effect has been minor in impact and helpful in revenue. “Those Stations (Cedar Street & E Broad Street) are only 50 seconds apart in transportation and there are portions of District Two that are just as close to Cedar Street as it is to Kipling.” The Mayor cited one of his more outspoken critics who lives on Pinewood in District Two. “Cedar Street Station is just as close to her home as the Kipling Street Station cause they both have to get to E. River and then travel south and E. River is right in the middle of those two stations. So anywhere along E. River south to Robin Park and that area off of Chestnut Ridge, the quickest way to get there from anywhere along Broad Street is to go down E. River and Cedar Street is just as close.”
In reference to the court document and the charges made by the committee that Mayor Grace should have done something about Director Shilling, the Mayor said that is out of his jurisdiction. “The Law Director is a separately elected official in the city and the employee in question is an “at will” employee of the Law Director – I don’t have jurisdiction over it or those individuals.”
When asked who would have jurisdiction over the Law Director and his office, Mayor Grace suggested perhaps City Council. “It’s such a rare thing, it would be City Council if anything and even that would be ceremonially – there’s no real mechanism there.”
Because of this particular case the city took a look at their sexual harassment policies. “This event got us to take a look at our policies and procedures and lack of them in some cases – so there wasn’t such a policy in place and we put one in. It’s not just sexual harassment, it covers a wide spectrum of things that people feel they are being unfairly treated.”
Mayor Grace said that if a case were to come before him, of any type of harassment, he would treat it seriously and take the appropriate actions.
Coon said that the committee would continue working towards the recall. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, we know that and if anyone wants to participate or if they have any questions about the recall they can Email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.