UPDATE: Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Chesterhill Councilwoman

By: Todd Baucher, Abbie Schrader Email
By: Todd Baucher, Abbie Schrader Email
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Update 6/8/2015 10 P.M.

An appeals court rules an elected member of Chesterhill City Council can be seated....

For more than a year, Rebecca Grady has fought the village council's decision *not* to allow her to be seated.

It maintains she is not a resident of Morgan County.

But Ohio's fifth circuit court of appeals ruled against that., saying she was legally elected to the post.

"I can't tell for sure if the powers that be would appeal it to the Ohio Supreme Court; they certainly have a right to do so," said Grady's attorney, Brian Benbow. "I certainly would hope this matter would be laid to rest, so Mrs. Grady can serve the public, as she's been elected to do."

Barring an appeal to the state supreme court, Grady's attorney says she could be seated on council July sixth.

But the village's attorney expects there will be further proceedings in the issue

Update: 5/12/2015 5:10 P.M.

The case of an elected member of a village council in Morgan County goes to the appeal process.

The village of Chesterhill refused to seat Rebecca Grady.

Now... an Ohio appeals court takes up her case.

The village maintains Grady, who owns a business in that town and whose husband lives elsewhere, is not a resident.

Tuesday, attorneys for Grady and the village laid out their cases to the fifth circuit Ohio Court of Appeals.

In the words of Grady's attorney, it's very simple: the Morgan County Board of Elections certified her name to be on the ballot in 2013, and she was elected to office.

What the arguments were about, however, was the legal right of the mayor and village council to allow her to serve on that board.

"They would have you know, in this democratic society we have here today," said attorney Brian Denbow, "that they can just decide whenever they want, 'you don't belong on council any more, take a hike'. That is not the law."

"She had to establish the village council had a clear legal duty to seat her, and she had no active legal remedy of law," argued the village's attorney, Paul Lafayette. "I feel she failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence, that she had a clear legal right."

Grady took the case to local court last year, but a judge ruled she would not get the position.

It isn't known when the appeals court will make its decision.

But one of the three judges on the appeals court Tuesday questioned why the matter of Grady's residency was not resolved during the election process, before she won her council seat.

UPDATE 7/28/2014 4:45 PM

It's a story we first told you about in April.

Rebecca Grady is a woman in Chesterhill who was elected to village council.

But after taking the village to court over that seat, the judge hands down his decision.

Grady owns a small business in the village of Chesterhill and says she also lives in the building upstairs.

But after she was elected last November the mayor never swore her in, claiming she is not a resident of the village.

Grady eventually took the village to court over this and had to prove her residency, but after testimony from both the village and from Grady, Judge John Nau decided that in fact Grady did not meet the qualifications - which is her residency - to hold a seat on the village council.

"I know that I have lost with the judge's decision. But I consider it a win if it helps the people of the Chesterhill community," says Grady. "People need to stand together and speak out. And if my case has in any way helped them to do that, I consider it a win."

Grady says she will continue to be an active member in the community and attending council meetings.

No word yet on what the village will do with the empty council seat.

UPDATE 5/13/2014 5:20 PM

It's a story we first told you about last month.

A woman in Morgan County elected to Chesterhill Village Council is now fighting to prove her residency after the council believes she isn't a resident.

Rebecca Grady is the woman from Chesterhill who was elected last November to the village council but in January, was not sworn in.

And she's taken the village to court to prove her residency.

Tuesday the last witness from the village's side and then Grady herself took the stand.

Followed by her husband, two sons, an employee at her restaurant and a member of the village council, Grady spoke of her residency above her restaurant located in Chesterhill and her length of that residency.

Some believe that she does not live above her restaurant, which is what lead the council to not acknowledge her election and swear her in as a member.

But one council member who took the stand Tuesday says she had no reason to believe either way.

"I had no reason to dispute that she wasn't a resident," says Tonya Tabler, a Chesterhill Village Council member. "I just feel that if we would have had sufficient evidence to deny her her seat, then she wouldn't be trying to gain her seat now."

Grady did get a little emotional during her testimony, saying that the seat isn't worth this fight but that the votes she got should count.

After the last witness took the stand both sides rested and now what will happen is both sides have two weeks to submit a final briefing and from there the judge will make a decision in writing to both sides.

We're expecting that to happen sometime in the next few weeks.

Home to Stockport and McConnelsville, Morgan County is home to quiet countryside along the Muskingum River.

But right now it's anything but quiet in the fiery world of local politics.

Things certainly haven't been quiet in Morgan County.

In the Village of Chesterhill one woman is fighting for her spot on village council that she says she rightfully earned.

Rebecca Grady is a business owner in Chesterhill and last November, ran for village council and was elected.

But when the first village council meeting took place January 6th the mayor, Richard Wetzel, did not swear Grady in.

And his reasoning behind that decision?

He says Grady is not a resident of the village.

But Grady says she indeed is living in the space above her restaurant and her mail has been forwarded there for over a year.

Friday in court we heard from witnesses on the village's side claiming they don't believe Grady is a resident of the village, just a business owner.

Even though Grady was approved by the Morgan County Board of Elections back in August when she petitioned to run.

"I only needed one vote to get elected in but 31 people checked the box," says Grady. "And if they don't let me be in that position then basically they're throwing away all 31 votes."

Mayor Wetzel was one of the six who did take the stand Thursday and still stands by his belief that Grady is not a resident of the village and that's why he chose to not swear her in.

We did try to get in touch with the mayor after the hearing Thursday but he was unavailable for comment and we still have yet to hear the witnesses on Grady's side.

That will be May 13th when the hearing resumes.

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