The first hearing in the removal of two Liberty Township Trustees was on Tuesday morning at the Delaware County Court House. Petitioners showed up in numbers to support the removal and misconduct allegations against Michael Gemperline and Melanie Leneghan.
Gemperline was in court while Leneghan was out of state on a prior commitment.
In the beginning of July, residents filed petitions to remove the two trustees from office. This is the first time there will be removal hearings of township public officials in Delaware County and only a handful have been held in the state. The hearing started thirty minutes behind schedule and lasted about an hour with Judge Guy Reece presiding.
Judge Reece started by stating it “was critical to look at the language of the first claim.”
After some back and forth, Judge Reece decided to toss out the first complaint made by petitioners against the trustees stating it was too hypothetical. The first complaint regards the conversations or “proposals” that the EMS would be moved from Liberty Township to Delaware County. Because this is not implemented and was only a conversation at a few meetings, the judge decided it did not need to be included in these hearings.
The council representing the petitioners stated, “You can’t just flip a switch. Our argument is the fact that a resolution was put on the agenda that left firefighters worrying if they would handle the services the next morning.”
The petitioners stood behind their arguments against both Gemperline and Leneghan.
Petitioner, Nico Franano says. “Those actions and the way they took them weren’t transparent and constituted misconduct in office.”
Despite the dismissal of the first complaint, petitioners like Franano say they are confident and are ready to move forward.
“We think we have a strong case,” noted Franano “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could win.”
Gemperline spoke with NBC4 after the hearing stating this was a “waste of people’s money and time.”
Both sides also declined a trial by jury for this case. Judge Reece also encouraged both sides to work towards a resolution on their own, outside of the courthouse.
The petitioners stated they have between 15-20 testimonials and should take up about 5 days in court. While the trustees council said they would be an additional 2-3 days. The hearings will resume on August 12th at the Delaware County Courthouse.