CLEVELAND — Elected in November 2020, Faith Andrews ran as an outsider, promising to make the Lake County Clerk of Court’s office more efficient.
While national public policy has little to do with the job of keeping track of lawsuits, arrest warrants and titles, Andrews aligned herself with former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, according to her campaign literature.
She defeated 12-year incumbent Democrat Maureen G. Kelly.
More than a year after taking over, Andrews is under fire -- not for her GOP politics -- but for her job performance.
Employees accuse her of not learning the job and of creating dysfunction that threatens the operation of the court.
The Lake County Court of Common Pleas judges agree.
They say in recent court documents that Andrews kept secret files on workers (called a “mulligan file”), made age- and sex-based comments about employees and displayed paranoid behavior, including changing the locks and keypads to keep her predecessor from sabotaging her, though there is no evidence of such a plot.
The judges write Andrews' behavior could lead to a mass employee exodus, potentially crippling the court.
The judges recount in lengthy directives to Andrews the employee complaints about her. These include descriptions of public outbursts and disparaging comments about judges and other officials.
“Employee mental health and productivity are reportedly being affected, and they are complaining of symptoms such as post-traumatic stress, especially when the clerk reportedly slams or pounds her fists on a table or countertop accompanied by the use of the vilest and foul language, including the word, “f***,” ”c***” and “s***,” the judges wrote in a journal entry about Andrews.
The judges also said in one entry that Andrews used profanity at a Christmas party with employees of the title division and “spoke in graphic detail about sex acts she performed with her husband.”
A half-dozen current and former employees recently detailed for 3News some of the complaints contained in the judges’ orders. 3News is not identifying the employees by name at their request to protect them from potential retaliation. The group that spoke to 3News and to the judges include a number of employees who identify themselves as Republicans.
“When she had one of her meltdowns, she could be heard cursing and swearing and dropping the f-bomb,” said one longtime employee. “One of the persons at the counter said, ‘Wow, how professional.’”
Another employee said Andrews has been slow to understand the day-to-day operations of the office.
“She has not been on the floor to learn the job,” the employee said. “She couldn’t file any motions, or affidavits or instructions or couldn’t answer any questions.”
Employees say they don’t care about her politics, just the job, which includes keeping track of crucial paperwork: arrest warrants, protection orders, lawsuits and titles.
“We spent a year at least trying to help her learn the job,” another employee said. “And things would be going good for a while and then she’d have a meltdown and things would grow legs.”
The public face of the court, Andrews is accused of openly mocking judges and others.
“She started pounding the table,” said one employee about a meeting with Andrews in public. “She said, ‘I’m not listening to the effing judges. I’m going to pinpoint all the corruption in the county.’”
At a meeting in Columbus attended by clerks of court from around the state, Andrews disparaged Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson, according to several employees with direct knowledge of the incident.
“She called him the ‘mother******* prosecutor,’” one employee said.
The court’s judges have had enough.
They catalogued Andrews’ offenses in several letters and directives to Andrews. They threatened to make the orders public by filing them with the court if she didn’t change her behavior.
When one fed-up employee resigned, Andrews threatened her.
“She told me if I did not tell her where I was going, my sick time and years of service would not transfer,” said a former employee.
The judges took the extraordinary step of barring her from coming into the office all but one day a month.
In a statement on behalf of the judges to 3News, attorney Kim Riley of Montgomery Jonson, said, “The clerk has no independent mission, duties or discretion” and that the judges are obligated to act to ensure the clerk’s office runs smoothly.
In response to the judges' actions, Andrews recently filed a complaint against them in the Ohio Supreme Court, charging they are interfering with her rights as a public official. Her lawsuits made public several emails, orders and directives to her.
3News found Andrews at home, but she twice didn’t answer the door, or respond to a call made in her driveway.
3News caught up with Andrews on the one day she’s allowed at work in the clerk’s office. Escorted from her car by a clerk’s office employee and by a sheriff’s deputy, Andrews refused to comment on the allegations. She said she couldn’t comment because of her pending litigation.
In her complaint against the judges, Andrews further states the judges lack jurisdiction “whatsoever to journalize or enforce the false and defamatory improper journal entries.”
Lake County is required to provide Andrews a legal defense because her work as an elected official is at issue. The Lake County Commissioners have approved the hiring of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur to defend her.
Last week, the day after 3News confronted Andrews, she returned to work, violating the judges’ earlier directive. As a result, the judges filed a 26-page directive with the court, making the document and allegations against her public. You can read the directive below:
More from Mark Naymik: