June 30, 2016

Mostly clear

Judge permits use of police investigation in suit against clerk

CLEVELAND — A federal magistrate ruled Friday that an ex-employee of Medina County can use a police investigation in her lawsuit against her former boss, Clerk of Courts David Wadsworth.

Judge Donald C. Nugent, of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, ruled in November that the documents were protected because charges against Wadsworth that he misused public funds are pending in Medina Municipal Court.

David Wadsworth

David Wadsworth

But federal Magistrate Judge Greg White on Friday reconsidered. He ruled in favor of former Chief Deputy Clerk Julie Kauffman after a hearing where county Prosecutor Dean Holman said he wanted to keep the documents private because they included “mental impressions,” like personal thoughts and opinions of investigators.

The impressions will be redacted from the documents, White ruled, and Kauffman will be given copies.

Kauffman filed her lawsuit in June, accusing the clerk of violating her First Amendment right to free speech by firing her in retaliation for telling Holman that Wadsworth misused public funds.

Specifically, she said Wadsworth used clerk’s office materials in his 2012 campaign, pressured his workers to vote for him, kept a map of his campaign yard signs in his office and filmed a political advertisement in the clerk’s office.

As a result of Kauffman’s report, Wadsworth on Sept. 4 was charged with and pleaded no contest to misusing funds, a first-degree misdemeanor, and entered a first-offender counseling program. If he completes the program, the charge will be dropped.

Kauffman subpoenaed the prosecutor and county sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Kevin Ross for documents regarding their investigation.

Holman countered, arguing the documents were protected because Wadsworth’s case was ongoing.

Officials at Alternative Paths, where participants go to complete first-offender programs, said in November that the programs usually last six months to a year.

In her lawsuit, Kauffman is seeking reinstatement of her job, damage from the county and from Wadsworth, attorneys’ fees and a declaratory judgment that Wadsworth violated her rights.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.