You can't recall county officials, but it turns out you can sign a petition to get a court to remove them for misconduct in office. So local Republicans have discovered, and today Cuyahoga County Republican chair Rob Frost threatened to use the removal law against Jimmy Dimora. He says he'll start circulating petitions to dislodge Dimora if he doesn't resign by July 1.
This is the second obscure Ohio law that Frost and Co. have aimed at a local Democrat in the past week. They've also forced an audit of county auditor Frank Russo's books. Frost has targeted Dimora and Russo because they are targets of the FBI's county corruption probe.
If Republicans can gather 68,000 signatures, they can force a court to consider whether Dimora has misused his office. Dimora could choose whether to have a judge or jury hear the case.
Here is the law, which says a public official is guilty of misconduct in office if he or she:
willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, refuses or willfully neglects to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance...
(I especially like the "drunkenness" part.) *
The Republican Party would have to write a complaint leveling charges against Dimora. If they can get enough signatures on the petitions, then a judge or jury would decide if any of the charges are true. The removal proceeding would follow evidence rules from civil cases, and unlike in a criminal trial, which requires a unanimous jury verdict, a 9-3 vote would be enough to remove Dimora. He could appeal to the court of appeals.
It's interesting to know we have a recall-like way to get someone out of office. But what would Frost's complaint say? My guess is it'd be a rewrite of the federal allegations against "Public Official #1" in the prosecutor's filing against J. Kevin Kelley and others.
Frost is betting that an anti-Dimora petition drive and the threat of a removal proceeding could push Dimora to resign earlier than the feds' investigation might. That theoretical scenario reminds me of the end of Detroit's huge scandal last year. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick held onto office for months in the face of obstruction of justice and perjury charges. (Kilpatrick fired cops who were investigating him, then lied under oath about that and about an affair with his chief of staff.) But the day after Michigan's governor began a removal hearing to examine his conduct, Kilpatrick pled guilty in the criminal case and resigned.
(*I should probably add that I have no reason to think the "drunkenness" part applies here. They wrote laws kind of funny in 1953.)