News

Walder says ‘adolescent behavior’ of court must stop

Chagrin Valley Times

Joseph Koziol, Jr.

July 12, 2019

Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell defended his employees’ behavior in the county auditor’s office two weeks ago and threatened the auditor’s office with legal action if it pursues criminal charges in the incident.

Geauga County Auditor Charles Walder responded, calling the judge’s account of the June 27 incident “fictional” while calling for the “adolescent behavior” to stop.

Chardon police were called June 27 after workers in the auditor’s office reported that Seth Miller, chief compliance officer with the court, reportedly took documents from the auditor’s office.

Referring to an auditor’s office video of the June 27 incident, Judge Grendell wrote in a letter to Mr. Walder stating that it was the auditor’s staff in the wrong, not his employees.

“Since the video establishes what I understand as the events on June 27, 2019, it would seem you and your staff’s actions constituted unwarranted obstruction, harassment, and intimidation of court staff,” Judge Grendell wrote. “This leaves me no choice but to consider whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the court is not impeded from conducting its official business with the auditor’s office, and to protect its staff members’ ability to perform their official duties on behalf of the court.”

While he addressed his employees’ behavior, he did not mention his part on June 27. Witnesses reported to police that the judge came down from his second-floor courtroom to confront a Chardon officer on the street. Witnesses stated that Judge Grendell was yelling at the officer. The officer later reportedly told Mr. Walder that the judge threatened to issue an order for the officer’s arrest.

Judge Grendell followed his letter with two court orders giving his employees the ability to conduct court business “in any public area, in any public office, with any public employee as needed” for court business.

But Kate Jacob, chief compliance officer with the auditor, questioned whether the orders carried any weight with the auditor’s office.

“It is our understanding that they pertain only to court staff and court operations, not other elected county officials,” Ms. Jacob said.

Ms. Jacob said the auditor’s office had been allowing Mr. Miller and court administrator Kimberly Laurie as a courtesy to come and sign for payroll. “But, in light of what happened, we can’t allow that anymore because of the theft,” she said. Both had been involved in the July 27 incident at the auditor’s office. Ms. Jacob said those two employees have been banned from their office.

Although Judge Grendell called for cooperation from both sides, he also issued a threat. “Unfortunately, your actions on Thursday (June 27) and the threat of criminal charges in your June 27, 2019 letter may result in unnecessary federal litigation at county taxpayer’s expense,” he wrote.

Mr. Walder said his office is doing what he was elected to do. “I came into this position prepared to establish better policies, procedures and safeguards for Geauga County funds,” Mr. Walder said.

 

Mr. Walder said all offices, except the courts under Judge Grendell, have joined with the auditor in providing that cooperation to keep the county’s funds safe.

 

 

Mr. Walder said all offices, except the courts under Judge Grendell, have joined with the auditor in providing that cooperation to keep the county’s funds safe.

“With the exception of the Juvenile-Probate court, all other entities and branches of government have welcomed, actively embraced and cooperated with our endeavor to protect the Geauga County Treasury and properly account for expenditures of public money,” he wrote.

Mr. Walder said that lack of cooperation has now led to “adolescent behavior” by court staff.

“It is unfortunate that now the court has stooped to disrupting those who are sworn to protect and serve as well as other elected office holders.

“This adolescent behavior needs to stop. The court should work together with the rest of the county to serve the taxpayers and protect public funds. Attempting to repeatedly correct the court’s fictional versions of the events is an effort in futility as they always insist on having the last word, whether through social media, letters, email, or one-sided shouting matches on public sidewalks against police officers.”

Categories: News

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