Changes coming in Highland Heights after Coleman’s resignation

February 22, 2019

Changes coming in Highland Heights after Coleman’s resignation

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Former City Council president Chuck Brunello Jr. was sworn in as mayor Wednesday evening (Feb. 20) at City Hall by Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge Dominic Coletta.

This is the first of several changes coming the city’s way in the next few weeks, following the resignation of former mayor Scott Coleman.

Brunello, who served as council president for a little more than a year and who was in his eighth year as a council member, will serve the remainder of Coleman’s term of office, which concludes Dec. 31.

Coleman turned in his letter of resignation Tuesday (Feb. 19) following allegations that he embezzled more than $80,000 from the re-election campaign of Rep. David Joyce (R-14). Coleman served for a time as Joyce’s campaign treasurer and, before that, was treasurer for the campaign of late Rep. Steve LaTourette.

Brunello, 40, said he intends to keep the city’s government running at an optimum level.

“It’s not going to halt or slow down anything,” Brunello said of Coleman’s resignation. “I’m going to do my best to ensure that.”

At the Jan. 22 council meeting, Coleman surprised those present by announcing that he would not run for re-election in 2019. With his family in attendance, an emotional Coleman said that his 15 years was enough time served as mayor, and that he wanted to spend more time with loved ones.

Brunello pulled Cuyahoga County Board of Elections petitions shortly after in declaring his intention to succeed Coleman.

Brunello’s move from council to mayor means that the six remaining council representatives must select a new president and a new member.

Law Director Tim Paluf said council will vote to elect its new president, and that council will have 30 days from Coleman’s resignation to select a new member. Paluf said that, although a procedure to select a new council member isn’t included in the city’s charter, he assumes that council members will accept applications, then interview interested parties.

The person council selects as its newest member will serve the remainder of this year, and would have to run for election in November to serve the remainder of Brunello’s term, which runs through Dec. 31, 2021.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Cathy Murphy, who served as president before Brunello, said she is attempting to organize the selection of the new president at a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 26), just ahead of the regular council meeting at 8 p.m.

Murphy said she has expressed interest to her colleagues in again serving as president.

In addition, Murphy added: “I am considering running for mayor. I’ll probably decide by the end of March.”

In speaking about Coleman’s resignation, Murphy said: “I’m hearing a lot of comments. It’s kind of a mix. People are mad, because they expect more from an elected official.

“At the same time, some people are sad and are pleased that he resigned.

“A lot of people are concerned about the city. We (council and administration) will have to work as a team and work on behalf of the city and its residents.”

Following the allegations against Coleman, Murphy said she expects that action will quickly be taken to ensure that the city’s finances are in order, even though, she said, “There’s no evidence of any embezzlement of city money.”

Asked for his reaction to the allegations against Coleman, Brunello said: “I was shocked, just like everybody else. I didn’t see this coming.”

In the fall, the city’s ward council members are up for re-election. If Murphy decides to run for mayor, she would have to give up her Ward 1 seat. As of Feb. 21, no one else had pulled petitions for the mayoral position.

Thursday (Feb. 21) was Brunello’s first day in the part-time position of mayor.

“I met with the staff today at City Hall and I don’t anticipate we’re going to have any problems making sure the government is running well,” he said.

Murphy suggested that any resident interested in becoming a council member should submit their contact information to Clerk of Council Regina Cahill at City Hall.

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