Ohio Supreme Court Rules Coalition Opposed to Q Deal Can Be Part of Legal Battle Over Referendum Signatures

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 today that petitioners representing a coalition of groups opposed to the city of Cleveland's part of the deal with Cuyahoga County that would contribute millions of dollars of taxpayer money to the renovation of Quicken Loans arena can join the legal party that will play out as the court decides whether the city should or should not accept referendum signatures seeking to put the issue to a vote.

The short and dirty background: After Cleveland city council approved the city's portion of the deal more than 20,000 signatures were gathered for a referendum that would allow voters to decide the issue. The clerk of council rejected those signatures out of hand, saying that the city's role in the contracts — aka, the vote — was already done so a referendum would be unconstitutional. (You can and should read more on that backstory here.)

Representing that coalition, with five named taxpayers, the Chandra law firm filed taxpayer demand letter asking Law Director Barbara Langhenry to force the clerk to accept the petitions, otherwise, they'd file a lawsuit.

Instead, Langhenry sought to have the case decided by the Ohio Supreme Court — yes, the city is suing itself in a way. After that, the Chandra law firm filed motions to dismiss (arguing the city is on both sides of the case and thus representing, essentially, the same side in a "collusive" move to "thwart" the chance at a vote) and to have the petitioners (the coalition) intervene and be part of the legal proceedings. The clerk of council also sought to have the case dismissed. Both the clerk and the law director wanted the petitioners kept out of the case.

In this week's ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected both motions to dismiss but did grant the petitioners the right to intervene.

"Petitioners are relieved that they will not be excluded from these proceedings,
and that they will have their say in court to help ensure that the peoples' right to vote on the Q deal is not thwarted," Peter Pattakos of the Chandra Law Firm said in a statement.

*The Chandra Law Firm has previously represented Scene in a legal matter.