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Published: Tuesday, 2/24/2009

2 officials may face jail in dispute with judge

Assistant Finance Director Linda Wilker and Administrator John Jezak were summoned to Maumee Municipal Court.  Assistant Finance Director Linda Wilker and Administrator John Jezak were summoned to Maumee Municipal Court.
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Judge Gary Byers of Maumee Municipal Court has threatened to throw two city administrators into jail for failing to carry out his order to grant an extra week of vacation to a new probation officer.

City officials say the judge s order violates city personnel policy.

Judge Byers held a hearing Monday on his order to Administrator John Jezak and Assistant Finance Director Linda Wilker to show why they should not be punished with jail time. He granted a continuance after lawyers for the city and for the two administrators argued the timing and legality of the order.

The judge issued the order Friday to appear in court. It arose out of apparent frustration that his administrative order of Nov. 6 to give Ryan Wolaver, an assistant probation officer, credit for his previous employment in calculating vacation time had not been implemented.

At Monday's hearing, Judge Byers said he operates independently under state law from the city government; therefore, his order must be carried out by city administrators.

There is no judgment as to whether or not this is appropriate. They are to perform administrative functions on behalf of the court relative to court employees, Judge Byers said.

Kevin Greenfield, a privately hired lawyer for Mr. Jezak and Ms. Wilker, told the judge that his contempt of court order was directed at the wrong people and didn t give them enough time to defend themselves.

Mr. Greenfield said the November order from the judge was not sent to either Ms. Wilker or Mr. Jezak, and in any case neither is responsible for deciding vacation eligibility. They are not the parties that can make these independent judgments on their own, Mr. Greenfield said.

In continuing the case until March 4, the judge said that if he determines that Mr. Jezak and Ms. Wilker were not the right targets for his order, the show-cause order would be amended.

City Law Director Sheila McAdams asked for the case to be dismissed, saying city employees were correctly following city policy, which prohibits employees hired after Dec. 22, 1997, from getting credit for previous years of experience in setting vacation time.

A payroll clerk questioned the legality of the extra week of vacation in November and referred the issue to Ms. McAdams, who sent a written opinion to Judge Byers Jan. 13 denying the extra vacation time.

In her memo to the court yesterday, Ms. McAdams said the one-day notice for yesterday s hearing was unreasonable and arbitrary.

She asked for the show-cause order to be dismissed and said Judge Byers should recuse himself because he cannot rule impartially on the legality of his own order.

Mr. Jezak said he feared he would be sent to jail yesterday.

I never received a single phone call or e-mail [from the judge], said Mr. Jezak, who noted that they work in the same building. It s absolutely ridiculous and outrageous. I think it s intimidation and bullying.

Mr. Wolaver was not available for comment.

Mayor Tim Wagener said the case was not about Mr. Wolaver but about how to interpret the powers of the court and the city government under the city charter.

Mr. Wolaver was hired Oct. 20 to replace Linda Howe, who was appointed director of the Lucas County Board of Elections in July. He came from Wood County, where he worked for seven years as a probation officer.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.

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