Northfield Village court clerk alleges mayor tried to retaliate against her
NORTHFIELD VILLAGE — The village’s clerk of courts has filed a civil complaint against the village alleging that Mayor Jesse Nehez twice tried to retaliate against her for her part in an investigation of two other employees.
According to Summit County Court of Common Pleas records, Lisa Thellmann filed the complaint on Oct. 15. The complaint requests that the court award Thellmann, who still works for the village, more than $25,000, as well as compensatory damages and legal costs.
It states Thellman "suffered and will continue to suffer damages", but does not specify what sort of damages.
Nehez on Tuesday referred a request for comment to Law Director Brad Bryan.
In response to a voice mail message, Bryan emailed a written statement:
“The Village has not yet been served with the complaint by the Court but is aware of the complaint and its contents. The Village vehemently denies the allegations in the complaint and believes they are entirely unfounded. The Mayor did not take any adverse employment action against Ms. Thellmann at any time during the time period set forth in the complaint or thereafter. Going forward, the Village will defend itself against Ms. Thellmann’s claims in Court rather than in the media.”
The complaint alleges that in early 2018, Thellmann saw the village’s administrative assistant outside of work even though she was still clocked in at village hall.
Thellmann, according to the complaint, reported this to former village Finance Director Trisha Ingrassia, who launched an investigation. That investigation, according to the complaint, resulted in the determination that the administrative assistant and an office manager had both committed “time theft” and “were given slaps on the wrist and simply docked pay…”
The complaint alleges that Nehez was close to the two employees and “harbored resentment towards Thellmann.”
In December 2019, the complaint alleges, Nehez was behind a public records request through intermediaries for Thellmmann’s time sheets and pay stubs going back six years.
“Mayor Nehez orchestrated the public records request as means to (1) intimidate and harass Thellmann, and (2) build a pretextual basis to terminate Thellmann’s employment for her role in providing information that led to two employees close to Mayor Nehez being implicated in theft of public funds,” the complaint alleges.
Around March, Bryan informed Thellmann, who has held her position for 14 years, of the subject of the records request, the complaint asserts.
“Bryan told Thellmann that he wanted to give her a heads up about the request, and that ‘the Mayor wants to write you but I couldn’t find anything there,’” the complaint alleges, adding that Bryan’s statement confirmed, “the records request was a blatant attempt by Nehez to dig up any information that could be used to retaliate against Thellmann…”
In a followup request for comment on Tuesday, Bryan acknowledged that he did inform Thellmann of the public records request, but he denied making any comments to Thellmann that it involved an attempt by Nehez to retaliate against her.
“That is not accurate,” he said.
In April, the complaint states Thellmann learned that the Summit County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating an allegation that Thellmann had improperly used the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, a state network, to seek information about another village employee.
“The Sheriff’s Department represented to Thellmann that her activity on OHLEG for the past six years was audited as part of the investigation and the audit found absolutely nothing improper,” states the complaint, adding that the individual who made the request for the investigation then informed Thellmann that Nehez was behind the request.
“Nehez not only retaliated for a second time against Thellmann due to her reporting illegal activity, but he also improperly utilized law enforcement resources in his quest to oust Thellmann,” the complaint alleges.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.