NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) — Over the weekend, we told you that citizens in Newton Falls are suing the city over the police department. Also named in the suit are all three Trumbull County commissioners and the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office.
Last month, under an emergency ordinance, city council voted to place policing into the hands of the sheriff’s office, which took effect on Jan. 1.
We spoke with the attorney who is representing those residents.
David Engler is representing the two residents, David Hanson and Patricia Benetis, who are suing Newton Falls. The lawsuit says that the city violated its own charter when council voted to dismantle the police department.
“The charter is very clear that the chief of police has to make those decisions. The chief of police actually attached an affidavit or was part of our lawsuit saying, ‘Hey, I wasn’t asked at all about how to get this done or if it makes sense for the people of Newton Falls,'” Engler said.
The charter for Newton Falls says, in part, “There shall be a Newton Falls Police Department, the head of which shall be the chief of police, who… shall have sole jurisdiction over the police department.”
Engler also says council did not have enough votes to pass the emergency ordinance.
“You needed four votes. They were counting three because they weren’t counting the 4th Ward council seat that was vacant at the time,” Engler said.
This isn’t the first time the city has been questioned over whether they passed an ordinance that didn’t have enough votes. Last year, a Trumbull County court ruled on a case against the city by former Police Chief Gene Fixler that council didn’t have enough votes to fire Fixler as chief. The court further ordered him to be reinstated and paid back pay.
We reached out to Newton Falls Mayor Ken Kline who said he is not able to comment on ongoing court cases.
Law director Brad Bryan was not available for comment in time for this story.