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Ohio justices rule Lake County Clerk of Courts Faith Andrews can return to office despite complaints from employees

The state Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that county judges overstepped their authority when they forced Andrews to work remotely all but one day per month.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lake County Clerk of Courts Faith Andrews can return to work in her own office.

In an unsigned 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled judges from the county's common pleas court "patently and unambiguously exceeded their jurisdiction" when they forced Andrews to work remotely all but one day per month. The order had been in place since May amid accusations of mismanagement from members of Andrews' own staff.

"[The order] does not merely direct Andrews in the performance of her duties; it effectively prevents Andrews from performing her duties and thus functionally removes her from her elected office," the court wrote. "If Andrews is to be removed from office, her removal must be done according to the standard and procedure established by statute."

The Republican Andrews defeated longtime incumbent Democrat Maureen G. Kelly in the 2020 election by aligning herself with then-President Donald Trump. In a subsequent 3News investigation, however, several employees said the clerk had not bothered to learn the basic duties of her office. The also accused her of mocking judges and prosecutors, verbally abusing staff, and even being paranoid that her predecessor was trying to "sabotage" her.

"We spent a year at least trying to help her learn the job," an anonymous worker told WKYC. "And things would be going good for a while and then she'd have a meltdown and things would grow legs."

RELATED: Lake County Clerk of Court employees push to unionize amid dysfunction they say continues under boss Faith Andrews

Andrews later filed a complaint to the state Supreme Court, claiming that while the local judges "have some authority to direct her performance," their actions prevented her from doing the job she was elected to do. Lake County Prosecutor Charles E. Coulson asked commissioners to hire an outside firm to defend Andrews in an effort to prevent a conflict of interest, and thus far, the lawsuit has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

The bipartisan group of justices siding with Andrews did not take a side on the clerk's actual behavior; only on if the judges had the right to punish her in the way they did. Republican Patrick F. Fischer dissented, but did not write a formal opinion.

You can read the full decision below:

Mark Naymik contributed to this report

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