No charges of a violation of a health department order will be filed after three police officers from University Heights responded to a bat mitzvah gathering outside of a Milton Road home.
Lt. Todd Kinley at the University Heights Police Department said 18 to 20 girls were gathered on the front porch of the house as well as “some parents.”
Stephanie B. Scalise, University Heights prosecutor, recommended no charges be filed.
She told the Cleveland Jewish News the University Heights Police Department referred the matter to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
"The community should absolutely not take this as some kind of tacit permission to engage in really reckless behavior, and I would classify what that incident as being very reckless and very dangerous," she said. "Although I could have charged it, I have the discretion to do so, knowing that there was another law enforcement agency that’s specifically supposed to handle those incidents, I assume they have more, you know, more resources to do so."
The Ohio Department of Health and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health have placed into effect limits on social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kevin Brennan, communications officer for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said the county has no role in law enforcement.
"We are not involved with enforcement of mass gathering issues at private residences," Brennan wrote in a Nov. 25 email to the Cleveland Jewish News. "That is handled by local police. We also have no role in the penalty phase of such enforcement."
In a follow up email on the same day, Brennan wrote, "We are just learning of this today. It will take some time to review, so we will be back in touch with you next week."
On Nov. 12, University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan announced the city would tighten its enforcement of noise complaints regarding social gatherings. The city previously had a policy of allowing first-time offenders some leniency through plea bargains.
In the Nov. 12 update, Scalise stated, “When our police officers are called to private gatherings because they have become too raucous or loud, our officers, and the families they go home to, could get very sick, maybe even die,” she wrote. “If you choose to host or attend a social gathering and the event results in our police officers being summoned for some other reason (i.e. noise complaints, fights, disorderly conduct), I cannot be generous with a plea bargain in court.”
Brennan said the hosts of the bat mitzvah “feigned that they didn’t know” the guidelines limiting social gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t find that credible,” Brennan told the Cleveland Jewish News Nov. 24. “People should be aware that we are in a pandemic and there are orders and guidance, and we are asking people to act responsibly. It should come as no surprise to anybody that nobody should be having large gatherings.”
Brennan said 25 of the 29 police officers in the department were expected to be at work Nov. 25, after 20 of the 29 had been out ill or in quarantine earlier in the month.
Scalise was not available for comment as of Nov. 24.