The effort to remove Riverside Councilman Steve Fullenkamp is on hold pending the outcome of a last-minute lawsuit.
In a 30-page filing with 15 exhibits attached, Fullenkamp and 11 other Riverside residents called the remaining council members “evil-minded defendants” whose conduct “has been extreme and outrageous, which no person in a civilized and democratic society should be caused to endure.”
The case is filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court and a hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m., Sept. 26, in the courtroom of Judge Richard Skelton. Fullenkamp’s request for a temporary restraining order was denied Thursday in an early afternoon conference in the chambers of Judge Mary Katherine Huffman.
The suit names the city and all members of council as defendants in their official and personal capacity, except for Councilwoman Shirley Reynolds, who has opposed the proceedings against Fullenkamp and was only named in an official capacity.
Riverside Special Council David Williamson, who was appointed to oversee the proceedings against Fullenkamp, is also named a defendant in his official capacity. Riverside Law Director Dalma Grandjean is a defendant in her personal and official capacities, accused by Fullenkamp of providing “unlawful and extremely defective legal advice” to council.
Fullenkamp was joined in the suit by taxpayers Max Becraft, Janice Pitzer, Stephen Massa, Charles Huey, Linda Huey, Dwight Smyly, Connie Smyly, Linda Spone, George Miller, Debra Miller and Rickie Noerr.
“This is, in my opinion, a witch hunt,” Pitzer said. “This is a personal vendetta against Mr. Fullenkamp.”
Among other relief, the plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000.
Grandjean and members of city council, including Fullenkamp, declined to comment for this story.
Fullenkamp is the recipient of three complaints since June. Chief Frank Robinson alleged Fullenkamp possibly attempted to intervene during a criminal investigation. The others involve Fullenkamp allegedly telling Director of Planning Brock Taylor he should have disregarded the instructions of the city manager in a long-standing zoning dispute.
Taylor and Vice Mayor Mike Smith complained, with Smith alleging Fullenkamp’s statements were an improper interference with city administration under the charter.
In the lawsuit, Fullenkamp argues he has “voiced strong opinions about the state, operation, and conduct of the city; investigated and inquired pursuant to his duties of matters for which he has a lawful interest and right, and strongly advocated for the filing of vacancies in the city by the most qualified persons available.”
The lawsuit states the defendants “and in particular, (Councilman Ken) Curp, have resented, protested and unfairly opposed” Fullenkamp’s “exercise of his constitutional and democratic duties…” The suit also alleges all defendants “other than Reynolds … have acted intentionally, maliciously, wantonly, willfully, recklessly, negligently, ultra viresly, and outside of their respective offices without privilege to do so to harm Fullenkamp … and the City of Riverside.”
Williamson said the denial of the temporary restraining order would have allowed council to continue Thursday with the hearing against Fullenkamp, but opted to table the resolution “pending further clarification” from the court.
Dwight Brannon, Fullenkamp’s attorney, talked to this newspaper after the meeting.
“This won’t be my first rodeo with a council who acts outside the scope of their authority with political motives,” Brannon said. “As far as their charges and the lack thereof, they’re the weakest I’ve ever seen.”