Lawyers for the Chandra Law Firm*, representing five named Cleveland taxpayers, have filed a motion in the Ohio Supreme Court asking that the court dismiss the city of Cleveland's Q Deal lawsuit against itself.
The motion, filed Friday morning, contends that the City's law department and the city council clerk are not truly "adverse parties." It says the "collusive" suit is a deliberate effort to thwart a voter referendum on the Q Deal.
From the motion
The mayor and council—who are controlling this lawsuit—have a substantial and undeniable political interest in avoiding a referendum here. They have outspokenly supported the controversial Q deal against a vigorous public outcry, and know that a referendum will bring this issue (and their support of it) under heavy scrutiny in a cycle where they are all (the mayor and all 17 council members) up for reelection. They also know—given Clevelanders' rejection of a similar "Sin Tax" arena subsidy at the ballot in 2014 that was more defensible because taxpayers arguably had a legal obligation to fund the renovations at issue—that they are likely to lose this referendum.
Both attorneys Subodh Chandra and Peter Pattakos were stunned when Scene reached them by phone after a joint press conference by Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Kevin Kelley announcing the suit earlier this month
"I have never seen a party working to orchestrate a suit against himself, telling himself to do the right thing," Chandra said at the time.
Pattakos, in a press release this morning announcing the motion, added:
"While the Supreme Court should put a stop to these shenanigans and swiftly affirm the citizens' right to a referendum, it's just as important that voters pay close attention to the way these elected officials are attempting to subvert democracy here, and hold them accountable accordingly."
By phone Friday morning, Pattakos said that "what really gave [the city] away" was its refusal to name taxpayers in their suit.
"The statute expressly contemplates allowing taxpayers to participate, and we explicitly asked them to," Pattakos said. "Why wouldn't they have named us? What reason could there possibly be if their motives were legitimate?"
Cleveland Law Director Barbara Langhenry and Council Clerk Pat Britt have both retained outside lawyers in the suit. Jackson and Kelley positioned the suit less as a legal battle and more as an impartial debate between two "equally valid" arguments. Did the clerk have legal authority to reject more than 20,000 signatures
or didn't she?
*The Chandra law firm has legally represented Scene.