WOSU 89.7 NPR News | By George Shillcock
Published December 21, 2023 at 4:26 PM EST
Photo by Katie Geniusz / WOSU
The Columbus City Attorney appointed a special counsel to look into a private complaint filed against Mayor Andrew Ginther, alleging he broke the law by pressuring a Franklin County judge in an ongoing court case.
WOSU spoke to Whitehall City Attorney Brad Nicodemus, who confirmed he got the call Thursday morning saying he would be the special counsel, and is charged with looking into a complaint filed Wednesday alleging Ginther broke the two laws: obstructing official business and violating the civil rights of several parties. Ginther allegedly called Franklin County Municipal Judge Stephanie Mingo in October and allegedly pressuring her in the city's ongoing lawsuit against two bus companies in City of Columbus vs. WILSON 845 LLC.
Mingo had to recuse herself from the case against Barons Bus Lines and Greyhound Lines and retired Circleville Judge Gary Dumm has taken over for her. The city is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court to close the station because of alleged safety issues and code violations at the site.
Ginther's political rival Joe Motil, who lost to Ginther in the 2023 election, filed the complaint. The phone call took place before the election, but Mingo declined to identify Ginther as the elected official who called her until after the election took place.
Motil alleged Ginther violated not only the bus companies' civil rights by trying to interfere in the case, but also his own civil rights for allegedly trying to influence the election and the civil rights of Columbus voters.
In his sworn affidavit, Motil said he believes there is sufficient evidence Ginther had criminal intent to obstruct the business of the court by secretly influencing Mingo and depriving the defendants of their rights to a fair trial and due process. Motil argued Ginther tried to deprive Motil himself, as a candidate, and Columbus voters of their statutory and constitutional rights to a fair election and public confidence in the judiciary.
Ginther won the election for another four years in office with over 60% of the vote. Motil was a frequent critic of how the city responded to the bus station debacle during his campaign, alleging the city could have prevented it from opening in the first place.
Nicodemus said his job is to determine probable cause, but he probably won't complete this part of his job until after the holiday weekend.
Nicodemus said he would be the prosecutor on the case should charges be filed against Ginther.
Ginther's office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline. A spokesperson for Ginther previously said they would not comment on pending litigation.