CLEVELAND, OH — A deadline laid down by the city’s firefighters’ union for Mayor Frank Jackson to sack Fire Chief Angelo Cavillo came and went Tuesday with Calvillo still in the job.
The Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters, in a letter last week, warned that it would sue the city if the Jackson administration did not fire Calvillo within a week for violating terms of the city’s charter.
If the city did not act, warned the union’s attorney Joseph Diemert, the union intended to file a taxpayer lawsuit that asks a court to force Cleveland to uphold charter provisions that prohibit politicking by civil service employees.
The union set the close of business Tuesday as its deadline.
The union wants Calvillo fired for violating a charter provision that says civil service employees may not “act as an officer of a political organization or take part in a political campaign, or serve as a member of a committee of any such organization, or circulate or seek signatures to any petition provided for by primary or election laws, or act as a worker in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”
The charter says anyone who violates the provisions could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to six months and “shall immediately forfeit his office or employment.”
Calvillo acknowledged during a deposition in 2017 that he helped circulate petitions for Jackson’s re-election that year.
Cleveland Law Director Barbara Langhenry, in a statement, said last week the chief had not violated the charter’s prohibitions. The city stood by that position Tuesday.
“The Civil Service Commission’s Rules do not prohibit a city employee who is a member of the classified service from circulating a candidacy petition in a nonpartisan election,” Langhenry said. “Cleveland’s mayor is nominated in a nonpartisan primary election. The Charter gives the Civil Service Commission the authority to adopt rules.”
Diemert, in interviews with cleveland.com, has said the unions view is that the law director is interpreting the charter and civil rules incorrectly.
He said Monday that the union already was drafting its court papers.
In addition to threatening a taxpayer action in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, the union may consider filing a citizen action in Cleveland Municipal Court accusing Calvillo of a misdemeanor crime for violating the terms of the charter.