Next Stop, Columbus for Parks Group
February 4, 2016

"We have a judge that's more interested in his own personal power than running a good, clean park system." - Kathryn Hanratty

Trustees of Protect Geauga Parks will travel to Columbus on Wednesday to petition state legislators to exercise their authority to remove Geauga County Probate Court Judge Tim Grendell from the office.

On Sunday, a short rally was held at the gazebo on Chardon Square to prepare for the trip to Columbus. Approximately 40 people, including PGP members and community leaders, showed up wearing PGP regalia.

“On Wednesday, Feb. 3, Protect Geauga Parks is going to Columbus to take our petition, which currently has nearly 1,000 signatures, to present to the Ohio Legislature asking them to remove Judge Grendell, his oversight of the park district, because of the gross abuse of the parks we’ve seen since Judge Grendell has been in charge of the parks,” Kathryn Hanratty, PGP president, said Sunday.

Excessive turnover on the park board and a refusal to follow common sense uniform standards in making decision affecting the county parks were cited as two reasons for the petition.

As stated in the PGP petition, “Timothy J. Grendell has overstepped his statutory authority as Probate Judge, is deliberately and harmfully ignoring the will of the people, and is wrongfully imposing his personal and political vision upon the Geauga Park District.

“The actions of Timothy J. Grendell are an improper aggrandizement of the powers of the office of Probate Judge and an abuse of the prestige of that office designed to gain control over the Geauga Park District.

“Timothy J. Grendell has undermined public respect for the office of Probate Judge and has caused serious and substantial harm to the Geauga Park District.”

Under Ohio law, judges may be removed in one of three ways:

• Complaints alleging judicial misconduct may be filed with the disciplinary counsel or with a certified grievance committee of the board of commissioners on grievances and discipline, both of which have the authority to investigate and file formal complaints with the board.

If two thirds of the members of the board believe there is substantial credible evidence to support the complaint, the supreme court appoints a commission of five judges to determine whether retirement, removal, or suspension is warranted. The commission’s decision may be appealed to the supreme court.

• Judges may be removed by a concurrent resolution of two thirds of the members of both houses of the general assembly.

• Judges may be impeached by a majority vote of the house of representatives and convicted by a two-thirds vote of the senate.

Absent a vote to remove Grendell, Hanratty said her group would welcome legislation to remove probate court judges oversight of county park districts.

“That clause in Ohio law, Ohio Revised Code (Section) 1545, has caused damage to parks,” Hanratty said, explaining past probate court judges had appointed board members.

“That’s not what we’re seeing right now,” she said. “We have a judge that’s more interested in his own personal power than running a good, clean park system.”

In a Jan. 29 press release, PGP also highlighted a recent editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer calling for state legislators to act “to put Ohio’s parks under the protection of people who better understand what the legislature had in mind when the districts were created almost a century ago.”

The newspaper opined that “irreparable damage might be done in the next half decade and beyond” without action.

In September, Grendell wrote to state legislators, including state Sen. John Eklund, R-Munson Township, and said PGP’s petition was “totally meritless” and created by a “handful of spiteful, self-serving individuals who do not want to encourage families and children of Geauga County to use their taxpayer-financed county park system for limited recreational purposes.”

“This ‘petition’ contains numerous false and misleading assertions, in yet another attempt from this small unhappy group to intimidate and remove me from my duly-elected office as judge of the Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court,” Grendell said. “Quite frankly, this misguided and unjustified effort seeks to usurp the will of more than 20,000 Geauga County voters who graciously re-elected me in November 2014.”

Added Grendell, “This group cannot accept the reality of these elections and now attempts to falsely persuade the Ohio legislators to undo the will of the vast majority of Geauga County voters.”

The judge further said PGP’s “intimidation tactics border on political terrorism.”

“This is a clear example of a group of disgruntled persons throwing enough mud at the wall, hoping that eventually something will stick,” said Grendell. “Unfortunately, that very mud they throw has only inappropriately dirtied the public’s confidence in the very office I am entrusted to protect.”