STOW — The trial of a Stow City Councilman charged with disorderly conduct in an incident involving the former mayor ended abruptly Monday with the magistrate recommending dismissal of the case.
City Councilman Bob Adaska allegedly did something to merit that disorderly conduct charge, but a magistrate ruled Monday that former Stow Mayor Sara Kline’s complaint against him didn’t specifically accuse him of having committed a crime.
Adaska was facing the minor misdemeanor charge after Kline accused him of pushing her during an altercation at the March 22 City Council meeting. Adaska has denied pushing Kline.
After the trial started in Stow Municipal Court Monday with Kline giving her testimony, Magistrate John Clark recommended dismissing the case after agreeing with defense attorney George Keith’s argument that the complaint made against Adaska did not contain language that sufficiently described a criminal offense.
Both Adaska and Kline declined to comment after Clark’s ruling. Kline, who resigned from the Stow Mayor’s job on May 13, is now working as the superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Department.
Clark followed up his verbal action on Monday with a written ruling on Tuesday which stated that the complaint "fails to reference or incorporate any of the language of [the Ohio Revised Code section cited by the prosecutor]," and concluded, "Based upon the deficiencies of the complaint, it is my recommendation that this matter be dismissed."
He did not specify whether the case had been dismissed with or without prejudice. An official with Clark’s court said that if someone tried to re-file the case, that issue would be examined.
The parties in the case have 14 days from Tuesday’s ruling to file an objection, according to Clark’s decision.
Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover is scheduled to address the case on May 30, according to an official with Magistrate Clark’s office. If no objections are filed in the 14-day period, Judge Hoover’s bailiff said the judge would sign an order adopting Clark’s decision.
On Wednesday afternoon, Special Prosecutor Michelle Banbury, who represented the city of Stow in this case, said she had not decided whether she would file an objection.
Banbury on Monday told the Stow Sentry that "we probably aren’t going to be able to re-file," referring to the "double jeopardy" Constitutional protection that prevents defendants from being tried twice for the same offense.
"I thought Mrs. Kline’s testimony was really good," said Banbury. "I am going to do some research on the issue and we’ll go from there."
She noted "specific elements of the offense" were not in the complaint, such as "causing annoyance and alarm."
Banbury said she believed they had "fixed" the language "sufficiently, but we hadn’t."
Trial ends following Kline’s testimony
On Monday, after Kline testified that Adaska "pushed me on my left forearm" after the Council meeting on March 22, Keith asked to approach the bench and then Clark put the court into recess for several minutes.
With court back in session, the attorneys presented their arguments on the content of the complaint.
"The complaint does not outline the essential elements of the offense," said Keith, noting the complaint does not include language that accuses Adaska of having criminal intent.
Banbury told Clark she would need time to research the case law provided by Keith to support his argument and noted she felt the complaint had been discussed before the proceeding began. Prior to the start of the trial, Banbury said she had clarified the specific subsection of state law on disorderly conduct that was being used in this case. She requested that the court continue with the trial.
Banbury made a motion to amend the complaint, but Keith stated the prosecution should not have that right, noting it had been filed on April 3 — giving prosecutors several weeks to research the issue.
Clark said the court did not have jurisdiction "if it’s not a validly filed complaint."
"Looking at this complaint, none of the elements of the offense are alleged," said Clark.
Clark added he was "not inclined" to allow the complaint to be amended on the day of the trial.
"I don’t believe the court has subject matter jurisdiction," concluded Clark.
Kline gives testimony
In her testimony, Kline said she was "upset" with comments Adaska had made on March 22, when he alleged she had removed the Stow Kids Playground equipment without giving notice to Council. She said that wasn’t true and that she had notified Council about the issue.
At the conclusion of the March 22 meeting, Kline testified she walked over to Adaska and said "Don’t lie about me ever again," and then walked away. Kline said as she walked away, she heard Adaska say something and turned around. Kline testified that Adaska told her to "go to hell," and "pushed me on my left forearm."
Kline said she was not injured.
In cross-examination, Keith noted that Kline’s report to police on the evening of the incident stated that Councilman Brian D’Antonio stood between Kline and Adaska before contact occurred. The video of the incident was viewed in court and, under questioning from Keith, Kline agreed that the footage showed D’Antonio stepping between Kline and Adaska after the contact happened. Under questioning from Keith, Kline acknowledged that being "upset" at the conclusion of the meeting may have affected her ability to precisely recall what happened.
Keith then asserted to Kline, "Mr. Adaska had raised his hand to essentially stop or freeze both parties there and there was some contact. You might have viewed that differently than he did. Is that correct?"
"No, sir," Kline responded. "He pushed me. Mr. Adaska pushed me. I’m very clear about that."
Keith asked, "Did you either watch his arm go further after the touching in terms of extending, or did you watch his shoulders turn as you watched the video? Did you see either of those things in the video?"
"Yes, his hand pushed me," answered Kline. "He took his hand and pushed me."
The case was dismissed before Adaska had a chance to testify.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.