Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Cleveland City Council President Kevin J. Kelley announced that City of Cleveland Law Director Barbara Langhenry submitted a complaint for writ of mandamus to the Ohio Supreme Court. The complaint is regarding referendum petitions seeking to repeal the City Council ordinance on the 2017 Quicken Loans Arena Transformation project.
“This has nothing to do with the Q Deal itself,” said Mayor Jackson. “Both myself and the Council President are on record as supporting that. This is really about two constitutional legal arguments: one, interfering with contracts and the other, basically, whether or not people are being denied the right to vote based on the referendum petition.”
The mandamus action means that the Court will determine whether Cleveland’s Clerk of Council is required to take action on the referendum petition seeking to repeal the City Council ordinance. In a letter to the Cleveland City Law Director on May 26, 2017, members of the committee of referendum petitioners demanded that the Law Director file a writ of mandamus to force the Clerk to accept and certify the petitions, if the Clerk of Council did not do so voluntarily.
Cleveland City Council passed Ordinance No. 305-17 on April 24, 2017, authorizing a cooperative agreement with Cuyahoga County and providing that Quicken Loans Arena admissions taxes be used to repay bonds issued by Cuyahoga County for the Arena project.
The Cooperative Agreement authorized by the Ordinance was signed by the representatives of the City and County on April 25, 2017. On May 22, 2017, the Deputy Clerk of Council refused to accept the petition papers and gave the petition filers a notice stating, “A referendum seeking repeal of Ordinance No. 305-17 would unconstitutionally impair an already executed and binding contract.”
In the petitioners’ letter of May 26, 2017, through their lawyer, they argued that legally under the City’s Charter the Clerk could not refuse to accept and certify the petitions.
“This is the most expeditious way to resolve the issue,” Council President Kevin Kelley said. “What the court says will be the rule of law we will follow.”
Cleveland’s Charter provides for the Director of Law to bring such action. To ensure there is no conflict of interest, the Law Director and the Clerk are each represented by separate counsel hired by the City. The City has retained Attorney Stephen W. Funk of Roetzel & Andress to file the Complaint for Writ of Mandamus on behalf of the Law Director, and City Council has retained Attorney Todd Hunt of Walter & Haverfield to represent the Clerk.