Court employee’s retirement awaiting decision from panel

WARREN – A three-judge panel will await written final arguments before deciding if a Warren Municipal Court employee can get authorization from the city to retire.

But after testimony Monday before Judge Timothy Cannon of the 11th District Court of Appeals, it became clear that the issue of the court re-hiring a retired Louise O’Grady at her current position as a bailiff / deputy bailiff will involve a second or different court fight.

”I can’t tell you now if there is any further litigation,” said attorney John Juhasz, who represents O’Grady, who now goes by the last name of Rowland.

Juhasz also represents Warren Municipal Judge Tom Gysegem in a suit against Warren Auditor David Griffing, whose testimony was taken Thursday in depositions.

Griffing and the city are represented by attorney Tom Wilson, who was able to cross examine Rowland and Gysegem, the only two witnesses heard Monday.

Cannon and two other appellate judges will decide the case, which for now only involves whether Griffing is legally obligated to sign off on Rowland’s retirement.

Still unanswered in the case is the issue of whether Rowland can retire and be rehired on a full-time basis. She has worked various positions at the court since 1979. She had been a bailiff in Gysegem’s court since May 2007.

”I wanted to retire, and I talked to the judge about it,” Rowland said Monday.

”I didn’t want to lose her. That would be 32 years (of experience) walking out of the door,” said Gysegem, who said he feels the court and judges there are the final say in who is hired and fired from the court. He calls the city and the auditor’s office nothing more than a fiscal agent for the court.

The judge has said previously that there should be a clear separation of powers between legislative and judicial arms of the city.

Gysegem said when he made an effort to discuss the matter with Griffing, he was shut off.

”I called him (Griffing) three times and left a message. I also drove to his office to talk with him and he wouldn’t see me,” Gysegem testified.

Griffing and Wilson have pointed out that the city has an ordinance that allows city employees to retire and then work only 20 hours per week for the city in their retirement.

In his cross examination of the judge, Wilson questioned why the judge signed a journal entry appointing Rowland to her present position but he never signed a journal entry terminating her at an old position for purposes of retirement.

Gysegem said Rowland took an oath for the appointed bailiff’s position, but the judge said nothing else was journalized after the city became unresponsive toward discussing the retirement / rehiring issue.

The case has been ongoing since the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, when Rowland started her retirement paperwork through City Hall and contacted Ohio Public Employee Retirement System but was unable to get application for retirement and for rehiring.

OPERS finally voided her retirement application in March of 2011.