For months, Frank D. DeJute of Niles has been telling anyone who would listen that he couldn't wait to have his day in court so he could show the world just how irresponsible the state of Ohio has been in filing a $2.4 million civil lawsuit against him.
Indeed, DeJute, a former director of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, was so dismissive of the suit that he decided to serve as his own lawyer. The state alleges that he overpaid a contractor handling $50 million in capital improvements at the MVSD's water purification plant in Mineral Ridge.
But all that bluster has now turned to whimpering as his Dec. 17 trial approaches.
Last week, DeJute sent a letter to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Thomas S. Moyer asking him to remove Visiting Judge Richard Markus on the grounds that the judge "... is determined to prove his judicial toughness, even at the expense of my right to due process."
At the same time, he filed a motion with Judge Markus seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit, which was filed by Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery on behalf of the state. In the motion, DeJute contends that since a federal judge ruled that the contractor, Gilbane Co. of Rhode Island, did not have to repay the MVSD $2.4 million it received for work it never did, the suit against him is without foundation.
Bankruptcy: The attorney general's office has appealed U.S. District Court Judge George Smith's ruling and has refused to give DeJute and another former MVSD director, Edward A. Flask of Poland, a pass. Indeed, the state was ready to go forward last month with Flask's civil trial when the proceedings were brought to a screeching halt after the disbarred lawyer filed for bankruptcy. The state is fighting the bankruptcy ploy.
Flask has already served a 90-day kid-glove sentence in Trumbull County Jail after pleading guilty to improperly receiving about $2 million in consulting fees, tickets to sporting events and concerts, political contributions and meals from companies doing business with the MVSD, including the Gilbane Co. Flask's criminal record boasts two felony and seven misdemeanor charges.
By filing for bankruptcy he made a mockery of the criminal justice system -- which is what DeJute is now doing by first asking Chief Justice Moyer to remove Judge Markus from the case, and then asking Judge Markus to dismiss the case.
DeJute has wanted his day in court and he should get it -- on Dec. 17. There is no reason to have Markus removed, and there is no basis for a dismissal. The wheels of have turned slowly in this entire case. The wheels shouldn't be permitted to fall off.