Green refuses to release legal opinion prepared by Walter Haverfield

The city of Green has entered into several agreements with Walter Haverfield, a law firm in Cleveland for legal assistance in regards to Issue 14, the issue approved in November to make Green’s law director an elected position.

Earlier this year, Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer authorized $10,000 for a legal opinion to be obtained through Walter Haverfield, which did not go before council because it was $10,000 or less.

During the April 9 City Council meeting, Green resident Greer Langkamp asked City Council why the report was never released to the public. No one responded to the question, but Councilman Matthew Shaughnessy brought up at the end of the meeting asking why the report wasn’t released.

Councilman Justin Speight also posed the question of why the report wasn’t released.

Interim Law Director William Chris said the legal opinion is within attorney/client privilege. He said it is in the best interest of the city now and in the future not to release the report.

Shaughnessy motioned to waive attorney/client privilege and release the legal opinion, but he and Councilman Stephen Dyer were the only ones to support the motion. The other five members of council voted no.

Councilman Chris Humphrey accused Shaughnessy and Langkamp of coordinating to bringing the issue up. He also said Shaughnessy was reading from a written statement.

Shaughnessy held up a paper which showed a few written notes, which he called “chicken scratch.”

“All this is is about a campaign issue, that is all it is,” Humphrey said. “Here we go again, that is all this about.”

Shaughnessy countered that it appears Humphrey doesn’t want him to do his job, adding that multiple people have asked for the opinion.

“I will not stop doing my job,” Shaughnessy said. “My job is to ask questions.”

Shaughnessy said Humphrey is the one who made the issue political.

Recently, Des Wertheimer, who is running for City Council, pulled a petition to circulate to overturn Issue 14.

“I think it is fair to release this so the people who may be signing a petition to overturn Issue 14 know what an unbiased outside legal counsel had to say about the implementation of Issue 14,” Dyer said.

The Suburbanite made a public records request for the legal opinion prepared by Walter Haverfield, but the request was denied, so it remains unclear what the legal opinion is about.

Lisa Sexton, administrative coordinator to Chris, said the records are within attorney/client privilege and are prohibited from release by the “catch-all” exemption to the Public Records Act.

The report was given to all seven members of City Council and a copy was also provided to the Charter Review Commission. The Suburbanite reached out to two of the members of the Charter Review Commission who did not respond if they received a copy of the report or not.

Chris confirmed the report was given to them.

“Walter Haverfield was retained to assist and provide advice to the Charter Review Commission, they have been provided a copy of the report,” Chris said. “The report is confidential and not open to public release.”

The hiring of law firms comes following the city stating on several occasions the language of Issue 14 was poorly drafted and needs to be cleaned up to be incorporated into the city charter. Issue 14 originally failed, but a recount at the Summit County Board of Elections resulted in the issue reversing and being approved by 26 votes.

One of the individuals who donated $200 to the political action committee against Issue 14 was Chris.

Chris is not a Green resident, so therefore he cannot run for law director, but if the issue had failed, Chris could have been appointed by Neugebauer as a permanent law director.

Chris doesn’t find an issue with his donation.

“Issue 14 is the law and there is no pending matter that could remotely suggest a conflict,” Chris said. “How do you consider that a conflict at this point in time?”

At the time of the donation, the issue was not law.

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This story was also published in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com