A Liberty Township trustee has sued organizers of a group that last year tried to remove him and another trustee from office.
Michael Gemperline is seeking more than $1.2 million from seven defendants, saying the group that had filed a removal complaint in Delaware County Common Pleas Court defamed him and acted illegally as a political action committee instead of a nonprofit group by raising money.
The hostility arose in 2018 from allegations that Gemperline and then-trustee Melanie Leneghan had teamed up to eliminate the township's EMS operation and replace it with Delaware County's.
In the lawsuit filed March 30, Gemperline called the claims "meritless" and "malicious" and motivated by "personal animus" toward him.
The lawsuit names Kerry Daly, Domenico Franano, William Houk, Gary R. Johnson, Susan Miceli, Rebecca Mount and Karen Slavic as those who either organized or petitioned residents for their signatures, more than 4,000 of which were presented to the court. The group later dropped its complaint, citing, in part, an aversion to wasting township funds.
Gemperline's lawsuit claims that by organizing, the group committed civil conspiracy by spreading false and malicious information. It also says they unjustly enriched themselves by collecting fundraising assistance to offset legal bills.
The group had collected almost $60,000. It was not clear how much was used in their defense. Gemperline, a first-term trustee, and Leneghan, who did not run for reelection, both had said petitioners lied about their records in order to gather signatures.
Franano declined to comment on pending litigation. Gemperline did not immediately return calls for comment.
Liberty Township trustee Shyra Eichhorn said it's "disappointing" that Gemperline is "looking to blame others for his own behavior."
"When we're dealing with a health crisis, my focus is going to be spent on dealing with helping the township," she said.