Geauga Maple Leaf
by Amy Patterson
July 11, 2019
Charges are yet to be filed against two employees of the Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court relating to documents they allegedly removed from the fiscal office of Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder.
Court Administrator Kim Laurie and Fiscal Compliance Officer Seth Miller walked out of the auditor’s office June 27 with documents Laurie says they had permission to take. Walder disagrees.
In a statement, Walder said Laurie and Miller removed a stack of purchase orders, vouchers and warrants from the auditor’s office, and only returned the papers when compelled by a Chardon police officer.
Later that afternoon, Judge Timothy Grendell appeared on Chardon Square, where witnesses say he angrily threatened Chardon Police Lt. Troy Duncan with arrest.
In a public Facebook post, Laurie disputed witness accounts claiming the judge threatened Duncan, saying if the lieutenant was “shaken” by the encounter, it was due to actions taken by the auditor’s office.
“The auditor’s office never should have put (Duncan) in this position in the first place because we aren’t dealing with criminal activity, we’re dealing with a county auditor who has a political agenda against Judge Grendell and is using law enforcement as pawns in his petty games,” Laurie wrote, using her personal Facebook account. “In fact, the lieutenant was instructed by Walder to arrest Seth and me if we ever enter the auditor’s office to conduct official court business in the future.”
Laurie said because she and Miller are the court’s fiscal officers and all of the court’s financials are processed through the auditor’s office, she and Miller could be arrested for simply doing their jobs.
Kate Jacob, the auditor’s chief compliance officer and administrator, informed Laurie July 2 the court’s payroll documents would only be shared through email or interoffice mail, in order to avoid further disruption caused by court employees entering the auditor’s fiscal office.
In response, Laurie told Jacob her emails invite a criminal complaint and civil action under Ohio law, after Grendell issued an administrative order July 1 authorizing court staff “to conduct business in any public area, in any public office, with any public employee as needed for the court’s necessary and reasonable administration of its official business.”
Any person who unlawfully attempts to interfere with or impede upon the court staff’s ability to perform their official duties on behalf of the court, Grendell wrote, would be subject to the court’s authority to enforce its orders — enforcement that includes the threat of contempt charges and arrest.
Jacob, in turn, said threats of contempt or arrest could be considered felonies — one felony count for each threat.
However, Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, who would likely handle a felony case, said charges or complaints related to the conflict have not yet been filed.
Charges have not been filed in the auditor’s misdemeanor complaint against Laurie and Miller for theft of paperwork, although Chardon Police Prosecutor Jim Gillette said he could not comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.
According to sources familiar with the investigation, prosecutors are discussing having a special prosecutor appointed to review the matter.
The court’s armed constable John Ralph picked up the court’s payroll checks from the fiscal office July 3.
The door to the office remains locked, as Walder informed Grendell that while his office is in a public building, it is not open to every member of the public at all times.
PGP Note: The year is 2019. We now have a modern communications device that allows one person to talk to another without the need to actually travel to a distant location for a face-to-face meeting. I believe we call this device the telephone. I’ve also heard that there are even more modern devices that allow the sending and receiving of complete documents by transmission of electronic impulses. I wonder why our $100K Court Administrator needs to bypass all these modern conveniences in order to physically pick up documents from the Auditor. Just sayin’.