Akron councilwoman-elect Tara Mosley-Samples faced a tough choice: give up her Akron Municipal Court bailiff job or a council seat she had yet to formally take.
Her decision became public this week.
Mosley-Samples resigned her bailiff position with Judge Kathryn Michael, effective Dec. 31, Montrella Jackson, the court administrator, confirmed Thursday.
Mosley-Samples will be sworn in Monday as the Ward 5 council member, with her term starting Jan. 1.
Akron Law Director Cheri Cunningham sent Mosley-Samples a letter Monday, giving her an ultimatum: resign as bailiff or forfeit her council seat. Cunningham said the city was acting on an opinion from a Columbus attorney who said the two jobs were incompatible for ethical and other reasons.
“It is my opinion that you cannot serve simultaneously in those two positions,” Cunningham wrote, noting that Michael would receive a copy of the letter and legal opinion.
The question of whether Mosley-Samples could serve in the two roles arose after she scored an upset in the September primary, beating Councilman Ken Jones. Mosley-Samples ran unopposed in the November general election.
Cunningham said at the time that the two jobs were in conflict of the Akron charter. Mosley-Samples said then that she didn’t see a problem and hadn’t made a decision about how she would respond.
The city’s letter and the impending swearing in forced Mosley-Samples to make her decision between a position she long has sought on the council and the bailiff job that pays nearly twice as much and that she has held for five years.
Messages left for Mosley-Samples via phone, text and Twitter this week seeking comment were not returned.
Cunningham sought an opinion on the issue from Donald McTigue, a Columbus attorney who specializes in election matters.
“I thought it was important to get an outside opinion on this from someone who works in the field,” she said.
McTigue wrote in a seven-page opinion that the two jobs violate:
• Akron’s charter, which says council members “shall not hold any other public office except as a notary public or in connection with the state military service and shall not be interested in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service for the municipality.”
• Common law rules, which prohibit public officials from holding more than one public position if they are incompatible. McTigue pointed to an attorney general’s opinion with a list of questions for determining if the two jobs conflict. He found that Samples’ two jobs violated three of the questions.
• Ohio ethics laws, which say a public official cannot use his or her position to “secure anything of value,” “solicit or accept anything of value” or “occupy any position of profit in the prosecution of a public contract authorized by the public official.”
“It is our legal opinion that a person may not simultaneously hold the position of member of Akron City Council and the position of bailiff with the Akron Municipal Court,” McTigue wrote.
Mosley-Samples will earn $57,117 this year as bailiff. Council members, who are considered part-time, make $33,010 annually. She took a leave of absence from her bailiff job in 2011 to run Councilman Mike Williams’ unsuccessful primary campaign against Mayor Don Plusquellic.
Some had questioned whether other council members hold outside positions that also pose conflicts. Jones, for example, works for the Summit County Juvenile Court Administration.
Cunningham said these two examples aren’t comparable.
“With this, [Mosley-Samples] would have been getting two city of Akron paychecks and doing work for the city in her job as bailiff,” Cunningham said.
“[Jones] doesn’t work for the city; he works for the county.”
Council President Garry Moneypenny, who contacted Mosley-Samples but hadn’t spoken to her as of Thursday evening, said he is glad the issue has been resolved and hopes that the council now can focus on its regular business.
He said he looks forward to working with her and with Rich Swirsky, the council’s other new member, who will represent the Highland Square area.