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State Supreme Court denies detective’s request

City officer claims promotion was improperly refused

The Ohio Supreme Court denied a request from Youngstown police Detective Sgt. Michael R. Cox to reconsider its dismissal of his case that contended the city’s Civil Service Commission improperly refused to promote him to lieutenant.

The court announced Tuesday it had rejected the request — thus dismissing the case.

City Law Director Jeff Limbian said: “We’re pleased that the Supreme Court reiterated that their initial decision was correct. We are looking forward to this matter being closed for good. It’s time to move on.”

S. David Worhatch, Cox’s attorney, said: “Naturally, Sgt. Cox and I are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Our attention now will shift back to the administrative appeal still pending in Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas.”

The high court, Worhatch said, “decided a narrow procedural question of state law” and “declined to address a broader issue presented by Sgt. Cox in the context of the charter of the city of Youngstown and the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission. In due course, we expect to ask the common pleas court to decide that question in ruling on the merits of the administrative appeal.”

On Aug. 27, Worhatch filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court in response to its Aug. 18 unanimous decision that the case was dismissed because Cox “did not file a timely appeal.”

In the motion for reconsideration, Worhatch wrote the court didn’t apply correctly the city’s civil service commission rules about providing Cox with a written decision regarding its decision to not promote him.

But Diana M. Feitl and Monica L. Frantz of Roetzel and Andress, a Cleveland law firm hired by the city, responded the court shouldn’t reconsider as it got the decision right.

They also pointed out the court grants reconsideration motions only to correct decisions it determines were made in error and not to relitigate the case.

They wrote Cox’s motion also failed to cite any Ohio Supreme Court precedent in asking for a motion for consideration.

Worhatch had acknowledged the court’s rules don’t have specific standards for reconsideration. He suggested the court “borrow from case law” to reconsider its decision by “demonstrating that either the court committed an obvious error or that this court did not consider an issue of consequence or didn’t fully consider such an issue when it should have been considered.”

The issue, according to Worhatch, is the city commission failed to conduct a hearing on Cox’s Aug. 20, 2019, appeal that a written promotional test had “errors and improprieties.”

Cox and other detective sergeants took a lieutenant promotional exam in June 2018 with him objecting during the test that it was based on an outdated examination book.

The commission certified the results of the test on Aug. 15, 2018, and put William Ward at the top of the list with Cox finishing third, two points behind Ward.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown promoted Ward to lieutenant May 14, 2019, and Cox filed an appeal six days later.

The commission ruled June 19, 2019, that Cox wasn’t entitled to an appeal and approved the minutes of that meeting on July 17, 2019.

The Supreme Court ruled Cox had 30 days after the approval of the commission’s minutes, considered a “final order,” to file an appeal in court.

While Cox appealed June 27, 2019, to the State Personnel Board of Review, which rejected his request Dec. 19, 2019, he didn’t file with the Ohio Supreme Court until July 6, 2020, which was well past the 30-day deadline.

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