South Euclid Municipal Court Judge Sues City Again
The running legal battle between South Euclid officials and its municipal court judge escalated with a second suit filed against the city last month.
Judge Gayle Williams-Byers claims city officials improperly used the court’s discretionary funds to pay court employees’ benefits and salaries last year. She’s suing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to get the money back.
Her lawyer George Jonson of Cincinnati,would not give a dollar amount. But he said the city has taken money from the discretionary accounts for years, and that reimbursements might preceed Williams-Byers time as municipal judge. She is serving her second six-year term.
South Euclid Law Director Michael LoGrasso denies the city misappropriated the court’s funds.
“Whatever money she’s alleging came out of her funds went to pay solely for her employees’ salary and benefits,” he said.
But that amount is part of the dispute. The city says it spent about $48,000. Williams Byers says she’s owed $64,000.
In an Aug. 15 statement, Mayor Georgine Welo also denied the judge’s allegations, saying the city has sent monthly expense reports to Williams Byers since she’s been on the bench.
“We were not alerted to any issue or concern…until February of 2019,” Welo’s statement says.
Williams-Byers’ lawyers did not respond to ideastream’s request for comment.
Williams-Byers is suing the city, all seven city council members as well as Welo and Finance Director Brenda Wendt.
The complaint asks the court to find that all defendants “violated their fiduciary duty in failing to calculate and return the misappropriated funds of the Court.” The suit also asks that Welo and Wendt be held in “strict liability” for money from the funds.
Williams-Byers also sued the city in July over her 2019 budget. She’s requesting $920,000. After mediation, the city has allocated $728,000 – which includes a reimbursement for the 2018 expenses.
LoGrasso said the city hasn’t gotten a response to its settlement offer. But Jonson said the offer will be rejected.
"The taking from the court's funds happened over a number of years.and the money that they've offered does not make it whole, so no, we're not going to accept what they've offered."