Action to remove 2 Liberty Township trustees dismissed

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POWELL — A citizens group said that a Liberty Township trustee’s decision to not seek re-election this fall was not a factor for dropping their legal action to try to have her and an ally removed from office.

Trustee Melanie Leneghan didn’t file for re-election Thursday by the filing deadline, saying she has other political opportunities and cited what she called the growing township’s prosperity and turnaround under her leadership.

More than 4,000 people signed a “removal for cause” petition, saying they were opposed to her policies toward township emergency services. They had raised almost $60,000 to hire attorneys for the hearing that began last month and was to resume Monday. Township fire and EMS also serves the city of Powell.

Nico Franano, one of the citizen organizers, called the agreement to dismiss the action filed in Delaware County Common Pleas Court Friday morning “difficult but appropriate,” and a way to “direct our resources in other ways that support our community.”

He said the group had commitments from businesses and individuals to raise more than $100,000 for the action. He declined to say how much of the $58,000 already raised had been spent. He said the effort “engaged and galvanized” the community to take action against trustees Leneghan and Michael Gemperline, whose legal defense was being paid by the township.

Franano said visiting Judge Guy Reece’s urging for both sides to seek a resolution outside the courthouse played a role in the decision.

The petitioners group, volunteers and “Save Our Services” members met with township officials July 26, three days after the hearing’s first day, to offer a settlement that included 14 points for “the faithful execution of their duties as trustees and a ‘cooling off’ period for any EMS related action through the end of the year.”

Leneghan and Gemperline rejected the offer and asked instead for the group to apologize.

Leneghan has said opponents are being “misled by a bunch of lies, where people created a false catastrophe regarding fire and EMS.” She had said that petition circulators erroneously stated that she and Gemperline had sought to disband EMS services and cede control to Delaware County. She said she has merely sought to improve service and reduce costs.

“This has been a very emotional time for me — this hatred that has been incited by this small group of individuals.”

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@DeanNarciso