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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Stink Arises In Lincoln Heights Over Ex-Police Chief Ron Twitty's Regime: Unopened Mail Behind $82,000 Default Judgment

Lawsuit Delivered, Answer Was Late
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Lawyers for the predominantly African American village outside Cincinnati say in a court filing that three certified letters about a lawsuit against the police department sat unopened for weeks.  The letters were discovered in former Police Chief Ron Twitty's office on Nov. 2, nearly a month after he quit.  Postal receipts show the certified mail from Court Clerk Patrician M. Clancy's office was delivered  on Aug. 23.  The village defaulted on a lawsuit because it failed to answer the claim on time -- Lincoln Height now is fighting to have the default set aside.  Twitty resigned as Lincoln Heights' police chief after it was discovered he failed to maintain certification as a police office in Ohio.  Details are in this Cincinnati Herald story, which noted he left the Cincinnati Police Department in 2002 after he was accused of failing to report damage to his city-owned car.  Twitty pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor offense involving obstruction of the damaged vehicle investigation.

Lincoln Heights'  lawyers Dawn M. Frick and Jeffrey C. Turner contend in a motion to set aside the default judgment that the case involves "excusable neglect or inadvertence."   They said the village did not willfully fail to answer the complaint.  More of the lawyers' argument is after the jump.

". . . the village did not become aware of the instant action until November 2, 20101.  Defendants acknowledge the Return of Service shows that the Complaints were signed for by Elizabeth Smith.  Ms. Smith is a clerk with the Village of Lincoln Heights.  The office that she works in at the Village Hall is not part of the Administrative Department offices.  It is located in a back area of Village Hall.  In the event that the Administrative Department, including the Village Administrator's office in the front of the building, is closed because no one is there, the mail is delivered to Ms. Smith.  Ms. Smith's standard practice when the mail is delivered to her is to not open the mail.  If it is certified mail, she will attempt to give it to the person to which it is addressed personally.  However, it that individual is not around, she will put the mail in the relevant mailbox of the individual or department.

"Ms. Smith does not have a specific recollection or where she delivered the three pieces of certified mail that the certified mail receipts indicate that she signed for on August 23, 2010.  However, she believes that based upon her standard practice, she placed all three pieces in the mailbox for the Police Department or the Chief of Police because Officer Begley [a defendant] was not longer employed by the Village of Lincoln Heights.  At that time, the Chief of Police for the Village of Lincoln Heights was Chief Ronald Twitty.  Former Chief Twitty resigned in early October 2010, and Jesse Green became the Interim Chief of Police.  On or about November 2, 2010, Interim Chief Green discovered three unopened letters in the office that was previously occupied by former Chief Ronald J. Twitty.  Upon opening, the Complaint in the herein matter waas discovered.  Immediately thereafter, Defendants filed their Motion for Relief from Judgment."

Courtney Munday wants $82,049 in damages.  He was arrested in 2008 for OVI.  While in a police cruiser being transported to jail in handcuffs, he fell out of because a back door hadn't been fully closed and locked.  He has injuries to his spine, knee and shoulder.  Village officials contend they have a defense to Munday's claims -- Munday says he sustained severe injuries because of negligence:  "If Officer Begley, following basic established police procedures had properly secured Plaintiff, not only would Plaintiff had been unable to open the back door of the cruiser but he also would not have fallen out of the cruiser."

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