WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio— The Willoughby Hills city council met Thursday night for the first time since Mayor Robert Weger fired six of the seven members, then was forced to restore them by a court order.
Tuesday, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger. That same day, the mayor returned keys to council members, hung their photos back on the wall inside city hall and restored their closed email accounts.
Last week, Weger tried to removed six of the seven city council members, accusing them of gross misconduct. He said they improperly hired a law director, passed charter amendments without input from the public and drastically cut his administrative budget.
Weger changed the locks on city hall and said he would appoint unelected council members as replacements.
The city of Willoughby Hills filed for a restraining order on behalf of ousted council members Nancy Fellows, John Plecnik, David Fiebig, Laura Lenz, Janet Majka and Laura Pizmoht.
Retired Geauga County Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry approved the order as a visiting judge.
"Mayor Robert Weger's actions in removing plaintiff council members are stayed pending further order of court, the affect council members and their legislative employees are accordingly restored to their positions with all attendant powers and privileges," the judge wrote.
Thursday night, however, the community had the opportunity to publicly respond to the incident.
The meeting became so heated at times, that police had to escort a couple people from the room.
"I will say that 80% of the people here are to support the council that were fired," said a resident.
"I believe with all my heart and soul that when the judge hears all of the evidence, we will be electing six new council members," said another resident.
"Remember, the majority of people in Willoughby Hills voted for these people, that's why they're here, they won the election," said a third resident.
The council discussed multiple agenda items such as proposed city charter amendments, including one outlining what powers the mayor and city council have to remove someone from office.
"Why should council be able to remove the mayor, if you're saying the mayor cannot remove council?" asked one resident.
"It's prudent to vest that power in many people who can exercise that judgement collectively, but you can't have one person with that kind of power...that would be a dictator," responded council vice president John Plecnik.
"Anything that we can do to prevent that from happening, to make the mayor work with council, to make the council work with the mayor, to make this city function, to stop the escalation of the political fights, we must do," said city council member Laura Pizmoht.