In what could be his final days in the role, Liberty Township’s medical director is suing a township trustee.
According to a Jan. 18 court filing with the United States District Court Southern District of Ohio’s Eastern Division, Liberty Township medical director Warren Yamarick is suing trustee Melanie Leneghan for “deprivation of rights” related to the township’s ongoing emergency medical service controversy.
For two months, township trustees have discussed a proposal from Delaware County that would replace the township’s cross-trained fire and EMS services with their own exclusively EMS-trained crews. The change reportedly would save the township an uncertain amount on reimbursements to the township and other fees paid.
Leneghan has been the main proponent of the change, and during the trustees’ Jan. 7 meeting, she instructed township police to remove Yamarick from the room rather than let him speak. Yamarick has been vocal in his opposition to proposed changes.
Yamarick has been with the township for 28 years, but his contract was not renewed in December. Instead, trustees Shyra Eichhorn and Mike Gemperline voted to extend his contract until the end of January, with Eichhorn voicing her support for Yamarick. Leneghan voted against the extension.
Now, in the lawsuit submitted by Yamarick’s attorney, Yamarick alleges that Leneghan “generated controversy by pursuing a strategy to turn the township’s award-winning emergency medical services department over to Delaware County and eliminate numerous jobs.”
“Plaintiff, a township resident, expressed concern that the defendant’s strategy could put patients at risk by reducing the quality of emergency services provided to the township’s residents,” the complaint reads. “Defendant then began retaliating against plaintiff for speaking out on this matter of public concern.”
The suit also cites an email Leneghan allegedly sent to Delaware County administrator Mike Frommer in December.
In the email, Leneghan says she would “like to start by hiring your medical director as of January,” and calls residents “rude” and “out of order” before claiming their concerns were politically motivated.
“It’s just a ploy by the left to produce their own ideological outcomes,” the email reads. “Many of the people there were union members and their family members.”
In the suit’s requests for relief, it asks that a judge:
• “Assert jurisdiction” over the matter
• Declare that Leneghan has violated Yamarick’s First Amendment rights
• Declare that Leneghan has “unlawfully retaliated” against Yamarick
• Declare unconstitutional Leneghan’s ruling that those “in litigation” with Liberty Township are prohibited from speaking at meetings
• Issue an order prohibiting Leneghan from making that ruling in the future
• Award Yamarick “compensatory damages for the violation of his constitutional rights”
• Pay Yamarick’s legal and attorney fees
• Grant “any other relief this court deems just and proper.”
Leneghan said she’s “not in receipt” of any lawsuit that names her personally as of Jan. 21, and said she believes Yamarick can’t file a lawsuit against her specifically because she was acting on behalf of the township.
“Because I was acting as chairman of the board of trustees, it will be a township issue, I’d imagine,” she said.
In either case, she declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.
“If there’s a lawsuit filed, I can’t respond,” she said.
Yamarick said he feels confident Leneghan’s in the wrong.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is to stop a rogue politician from not following the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “She’s a rogue politician. I think that’s why everyone is so upset about this.
“As a resident of 30 years, I signed up just like everyone else signed up (to speak), and by rule, if I signed up, I should be allowed to speak as a resident,” he said. “That was a clear violation. You can’t do that. We have the U.S. Constitution that says you’re allowed to speak and she had me removed. I think she was taking her position in the wrong way.”
This lawsuit, Yamarick said, is part of a broader effort to eventually have Leneghan removed by residents. He said he thinks the suit can serve as another piece of evidence that Leneghan is acting inappropriately.
“It’s not about me, it’s about maintaining this fire-based EMS the way it is and the way we’ve grown for 29 years now,” he said. “So I’d like that to not to change one bit.”