Ex-MVSD board member asks high court to remove judge
A former MVSD director is critical of a visiting judge's actions.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Frank D. DeJute wants the Ohio Supreme Court to remove the judge who is scheduled to preside over a $2.4 million lawsuit.
In a letter sent to Chief Justice Thomas S. Moyer on Friday, DeJute said visiting Judge Richard Markus should be removed because of "his questionable actions and decisions."
DeJute is the focus of a trial starting Dec. 17 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in a civil lawsuit filed by the Ohio attorney general's office to recover the $2.4 million.
The state has accused the former board director of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District of overpaying a contractor handling $50 million in capital improvements at the water district.
Reasons for request: In his letter, DeJute, who is representing himself, wrote that he thinks Judge Markus' actions and decisions in his case and related cases have "irreparably compromised" his right to a fair trial.
"In plain language, I fear Judge Markus is determined to prove his judicial toughness, even at the expense of my right to due process," he wrote.
The attorney general filed separate $2.4 million lawsuits against DeJute, Edward Flask, another former MVSD director; and Gilbane Building Co. of Rhode Island.
Last month, Judge George C. Smith of U.S. District Court in Columbus dismissed the suit against Gilbane, a decision the state is appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Flask has filed for bankruptcy, and his trial has been postponed.
DeJute wrote to Justice Moyer that Judge Markus feels he has no obligation to take into consideration the dismissal in the Gilbane case, although Judge Markus has said he would "adhere to the spirit of the rulings in that related case. ..."
Role of the press: DeJute pointed out in his letter that Judge Markus "has repeatedly asserted that he pays little attention to, nor is he unduly influenced by, media coverage of his official duties," yet the judge asked four Cleveland-area newspapers for advice before sentencing Avon Lakes Mayor Vincent Urbin.
DeJute noted that Judge Markus was the presiding judge in Flask's criminal case in which he sentenced Flask to a suspended two-year prison term and 90 days in the county jail.
"The local media roundly criticized Markus' sentence as being excessively lenient and served notice that Markus' future decisions will be severely scrutinized," he wrote.
DeJute complained in the letter that Judge Markus has refused to grant him a change of location for his trial on the basis of "pervasive negative publicity" or to continue the case so he can better understand the implications of the dismissal of the Gilbane case.
DeJute wrote that because Judge Markus doesn't sit on a bench in any permanent jurisdiction, "he just does what he wants. ... he has no accountability."