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East Cleveland law director: Recall petitions against Mayor Brandon King invalid

King has come under fire in East Cleveland amid numerous indictments of current and former members of the police department. He is also accused of improper spending.
Credit: Friends of Brandon L. King/Facebook

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — The initiative calling for the removal of East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King in next month's election appears to be coming off of the ballot.

After a lengthy legal process that involved the Ohio Supreme Court, East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons declared on Wednesday that the recall petitions against King were invalid due to a violation of a Ohio Revised Code. The referenced code states a recall petition “shall contain a general statement in not more than two hundred words of the grounds upon which the removal of the person is sought.” King alleged that there apparently were 500 words in the petition calling for his recall.

Hemmons wrote a letter to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, saying it should institute its ballot issue withdrawal protocol eliminating the recall issue against King.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court threw out a request by King to stop the recall election, but did render the opinion that the East Cleveland Clerk of Council is responsible for certifying or de-certifying a recall petition, not the board of elections.

In a letter to Hemmons on Wednesday, East Cleveland Clerk of Council Tracy L. Udrija-Peters stated that "nowhere in the (East Cleveland's) Charter does it state the process for the Clerk of Council to de-certify recall petitions so at this time I am respectfully declining to de-certify the recall petitions submitted to remove Brandon King as Mayor. I am not an attorney and must defer to the East Cleveland Law Director who is the expert on the subject matter of the Charter."

According to court records, the affidavit seeking to recall King was submitted by Charles Holmes Sr. in July. Holmes listed ten reasons why King should be recalled, including:

  • "The Mayor does not reside in the City of East Cleveland as the charter requires." 
  • "The Mayor has spent money not appropriated by Council. This has been confirmed by the Fiscal Oversight Commission." 
  • "The Mayor has used City contractors for personal work (demolition of the home he received from the land bank) which he should have returned to the city when he did not rehab it". 
  • "The Mayor was given a grant application to obtain millions of dollars from the State of Ohio which would benefit the citizens of East Cleveland. King never submitted the application because it didn’t fit into 'his plans' and 'what he wanted to do.' He doesn’t care."

On August 12, King was notified that the petition contained enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. He stated that he had no intention of resigning and requested October 25 as the date for the special election. The Board of Elections instead ordered the recall vote to take place on November 8.

King has also come under fire in East Cleveland amid numerous indictments of current and former members of the police department. In August, Chief Scott Gardner was placed on administrative leave following his indictment on multiple charges related to theft and fraud. King swore in Brian Gerhard as the city's new police chief last week.

Besides Gardner, eight current or former officers are facing legal troubles of their own. Last week, two more officers and two officers that had already faced indictment were charged, accused of ramming into cars during pursuits and then assaulting the people inside.

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