Geauga County Prosecutor James R. Flaiz is seeking to have the criminal charge against Beachwood City Councilman Mike Burkons dismissed.
He filed his motion April 27 to dismiss the first-degree misdemeanor, which was for interfering with the civil rights of another person. The case has not been assigned a judge and now awaits a judge’s order.
“This matter should be heard in Cuyahoga County,” Flaiz wrote, after listing the trajectory of the case, which moved from Shaker Heights Municipal Court to Chardon Municipal Court, back to Shaker Heights Municipal Court and finally to Geauga County Court of Common Pleas following appeals. “Geauga County taxpayers have already expended significant resources, both in Chardon Municipal Court and the 11th Court of Appeals while this matter has been litigated extensively.”
Flaiz wrote he “does not pass judgment on the merits of this case.”
Burkons was censured by council Aug. 17, 2020, and charged for contacting Beachwood resident Alix Noureddine’s employers at the city of Cleveland Heights following public complaints Noureddine made regarding Beachwood police officer Lt. Kevin Owens. Noureddine is assistant law director for Cleveland Heights
Flaiz pointed out Shaker Heights Municipal Court Judge K.J. Montgomery – who first transferred the case to Chardon Municipal Court and also to Geauga County Court of Common Pleas in March – could have transferred the case to Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
Montgomery’s transfers were based on the fact Burkons is a councilman, that jurors for the Shaker Heights court are selected from Beachwood residents, that the city of Beachwood receives funds from the Shaker Heights court, and the case had received publicity.
“It is apparent that a fair and impartial trial cannot be held in this court,” Montgomery wrote in her journal entry.
While she had the authority to transfer the case to Geauga County, according to Flaiz, “The Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office determines whether matters should be prosecuted here.”
Flaiz requested the court dismiss the case without prejudice.
“A prosecutor in Cuyahoga County can determine whether this case should be refiled in the proper venue,” Flaiz wrote.
In addition, he wrote, “The state of Ohio is requesting that the city of Beachwood be ordered to pay the costs in this case.”
Council appointed Kenneth J. Fisher of Kenneth J. Fisher Co., LPA, of Cleveland, to defend an 8th District appeal in the case, which challenged the authority of Stephanie B. Scalise to prosecute the case.
Scalise, the University Heights prosecutor, had initially taken the case without payment after Scalise was assigned to the case by Montgomery after Beachwood Assistant Law Director Nathalie Supler asked to be removed from the case because of a conflict of interest.
In an appeal with the 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland, Burkons’ lawyer, Peter Pattakos of the Pattakos Law Firm LLC of Fairlawn, challenged the appointment of Scalise as special prosecutor in the criminal proceedings against Burkons. He lost that challenge in a three-judge ruling.
Burkons was ordered to pay costs in that appeal. Fisher represented the city of Beachwood in that appeal because of a conflict of interest by then-Beachwood Law Director Diane A. Calta. His bill to the city of Beachwood totaled $8,812.50 for 35.25 hours at a rate of $250 per hour.
Flaiz advised Scalise in a March 26 letter that she had no authority to prosecute the case in Geauga County.
Pattakos previously won his appeal in the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren challenging both the jurisdiction of Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri A. Stupica in the case as well as the change of venue to Chardon.
“As there is currently a motion pending in the Geauga County common pleas court, the city has no immediate comment,” Beachwood Mayor Martin J. Horwitz told the CJN in a statement through a spokesman.
“I think this case is over,” Pattakos told the CJN April 28.
When contacted by the Cleveland Jewish News April 28, Scalise had no comment.