Photo courtesy of Cleveland City Council
Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson, who is currently on trial in Akron for a slew of theft-in-office charges, will remain suspended from his council seat. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Johnson's appeal Friday
after he failed to timely submit a merit brief which was due earlier in the week.
After Johnson was indicted in February — more than two years after Cleveland.com's Mark Naymik published an exhaustive series on Johnson's alleged malfeasance — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called for his suspension from council. A panel of retired justices appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court agreed.
"These numerous felony charges against Mr. Johnson go to the very nature of his elected position," the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. "They directly relate to Mr. Johnson’s service in public office and the authority he has in that office, and they allege abuse of that trusted position."
Johnson appealed, but in the meantime, Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge Anthony Russo appointed Marion Anita Gardner to serve as interim councilperson in Ward 4. Russo selected Gardner, in part, he said, because she did not intend to run for the seat this fall.
"Ms. Gardner stood out during the interview process for her advocacy and dedication to the residents of Ward 4," Russo wrote. "Ms. Gardner ... has worked tirelessly to address the issues of housing, childcare, transportation, job training, health care, and more for the residents of Ward 4. She has been a vocal advocate for the community and will continue to use her knowledge and experience to best serve the residents as the interim Councilperson."
There are currently 12 candidates for city council in Ward 4, and Ken Johnson is among them. The primary elections are Sept. 14. Johnson would be unable to serve if convicted of the federal charges against him.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.