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Judge Says State Board Axed Her|As a Favor to the Mayor of Cleveland

CLEVELAND (CN) - An administrative law judge says she was unjustly "laid off" after she refused to back off her order for the deposition of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and disclosure of his email and phone records for an unfair labor practices complaint. Judge Kay Kingsley sued the Ohio State Employee Relations Board and Chief Administrative Law Judge James Sprague in Federal Court.

In her civil rights and "logrolling" complaint, Judge Kingsley sued the three members of the State Employee Relations Board, its executive director, and chief counsel, as well as Judge Sprague.

Kingsley's co-plaintiff, the Municipal Construction Equipment Operators Labor Council, brought a complaint against the City of Cleveland to the State Employee Relations Board, or SERB, in April 2007.

The union accused Mayor Jackson of "meeting with bargaining-unit members, threatening to fire the employees and privatize their jobs, and attempting to intimidate and unfairly circumvent the bargaining process."

In her federal complaint, Judge Kingsley says she oversaw the case and granted the union's request for a video deposition of Jackson, and a subpoena to disclose his phone and email records.

Kingsley says she denied the city's motion to quash the subpoena, and denied its motion for a protective order.

Jackson was re-elected for a second term in November this year. Kingsley's complaint claims that he objected to being deposed because "anti-union comments and actions that may have been disclosed" might have affected the election.

Kingsley claims that the city wrongfully went to the board to appeal her decision.

She says that in July this year, SERB Chairman Eugene Brundige called her discovery order a "fishing expedition," and that after review, Judge Sprague "suggested" that she rewrite the order.

Kingsley says she refused because the order was "warranted and proper."

The very next day she was "laid off," and the case was transferred to the SERB, Kingsley says. Until that point, Kingsley says, she had "received nothing but good reviews," and had never even been reprimanded.

Kingsley claims that before July, SERB persuaded the Legislature to amend a bill to declassify administrative law judges from SERB, in order to push out those not easily influenced by the board. She calls that amendment "unconstitutional logrolling."

The union claims that one of its two witnesses is sick and that it "cannot obtain a fair hearing before SERB," which has denied it a continuance.

According to the complaint, Ohio government administrators have long opposed collective bargaining, and "SERB was to level the playing field ... This case is not about a disgruntled party. It is about those who still oppose collective bargaining, or have a bias against a particular union, attempting an end-run around the rights won by labor unions. The Board wants to tilt the field once again by intimidating the hearing officer, and if that does not work, to prejudge the desired result and decide the case itself."

Kingsley and the Labor Council seek damages from SERB Chairman Eugene Brundige, Vice Chairman Michael Verich, board member Robert Spada, Judge Sprague, SERB Executive Director Sherri Passmore and SERB general counsel and Assistant Executive Director J. Russell Keith.

Kingsley seeks an injunction reinstating her and wants the amendment declared unconstitutional.

Kingsley and the union are represented by James Kingsley of Circleville, Ohio.

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