BRUNSWICK—Ward 4 Councilman Anthony Capretta went to court Tuesday afternoon to try to stop the Brunswick Board of Ethics from conducting a probable cause hearing Tuesday night and an ethics hearing today.
He wasn’t successful in court, but the three-member board ended up not finding probable cause in this case, a decision different than it made in June involving another round of complaints against Capretta.
A hearing on the previous complaints is tonight at 5:30 at CityHall. It will be open to the public per a request from Capretta’s attorney, Michael Cheselka Jr.
Tuesday’s Board of Ethics hearing was closed to the public, but afterward Cheselka said the panel did not find probable cause. He would not divulge the nature of the complaint.
“They made the right decision this time,” he said.
Capretta was not at the hearing. “I’ve advised him to have nothing to say,” Cheselka said.
Earlier Tuesday, Capretta failed to halt the ethics review process when Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler denied a motion for an injunction.
In court, Cheselka said the Board of Ethics made its probable cause assertion regarding the first round of complaints based solely on each written complaint without any outside investigation or defense from Capretta.
The motion refers to the ethics complaints as a “ ‘witch hunt.’ ” Cheselka referred to the start of the ethics review process as letting “the genie out of the bottle,” the result of which is irreparable and irreversible harm to Capretta.
Representing Brunswick, law office associate Dennis Nevar explained the Board of Ethics has the power only to make recommendations to City Council. It cannot, under the city’s charter, impose sanctions against Capretta.
Kimbler denied Capretta’s motion on the grounds that he and his attorney did not show enough evidence to postpone the hearings.
“You’re asking me to interfere with the operations of a local government,” Kimbler said. “That’s a big step.”
All ethics issues are confidential until the respondent, in this case Capretta, chooses to make the documents and the hearings open to the public, interim City Manager Carl DeForest said.
The original complaints, from DeForest and Service Director Sam Scaffide, were made public. In his complaint, DeForest, who’s also the city’s police chief, charged on or about May 12 “Capretta wanted to be included in all proceedings and disciplinary decisions, including removal, relative to city employees appointed by the city manager.”
The city’s charter “prohibits members of Council from dictating the appointment or removal of any City administrative officer or employee whom the City Manager or any of his subordinates are empowered to appoint,” according to the complaint.
Scaffide alleged in his complaint that on May 14 during a phone conversation, Capretta yelled obscenities and said he wanted a resident paid an amount in excess of the established $35 reimbursement fee for mailboxes damaged by city snowplows, or Scaffide “would be his ‘whipping boy’ on the issue.”
The complaints say Brunswick Charter Section 3.06(b) provides that: “[a] councilman shall forfeit his office if he: … (2) Violates any express prohibition of this Charter.”
Capretta did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday night.
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.