CLEVELAND, Ohio – A judge appointed to hear a criminal complaint against Cleveland Fire Chief Angelo Calvillo has ruled a special prosecutor from a county not adjacent to Cuyahoga County should be appointed to pursue the case.
Judge S. Dwight Osterud, a visiting judge handling the case, made the ruling based on an affidavit filed in August by the union representing firefighters that argued the chief had violated terms of Cleveland’s charter, a misdemeanor offense, by circulating nominating petitions for Mayor Frank Jackson’s 2017 re-election.
Calvillo, in a deposition that year, admitted he helped circulate nominating petitions for the mayor.
Cleveland’s charter prohibits civil service employees from participating in campaigns. Among the penalties the charter outlines are potential fines, jail time and forfeiture of employment.
“I’m pleased,” attorney Joseph Diemert, who represents the Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters, told cleveland.com. “I’m glad that I read the charter correctly and I’m glad that someone agrees with me.”
The Jackson administration had no immediate comment, but Law Director Barbara Langhenry has said the city believes the fire chief did not violate the charter by circulating the petitions.
Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor had appointed Osterrud as a visiting judge in the case Sept. 10. Osterrud made his ruling almost immediately, issuing an order on Sept. 11.
But the union just learned of his decision Friday.
The clerk’s office failed to give the case a number and instead had simply kept the case materials in a segregated file which has not been made available to the public, Diemert said. Without a case number, tracking the case is difficult.
Diemert, not hearing any update on the case after Osterrud’s appointment, began asking questions and was finally notified by the court Friday.
“That bothers me a lot,” Diemert told cleveland.com. “It sat in the clerk’s office and it still doesn’t have a number assigned to it.”
Diemert said he hopes the visiting judge can be appointed within a week or so.
“This chief has repeatedly brought charges against the rank-and-file firefighters on the most insignificant of matters, and yet he has clearly violated the charter and civil service rules himself,” union President Fran Lally said in a news release late Friday. “I am pleased that a judge has determined that there is sufficient cause to prosecute, and I am confident that justice will be served.”