Two candidates are vying to serve the remaining two years of former Lorain Law Director Mark Provenza’s four-year term. Provenza resigned in March and attorney Pat Riley was named his interim replacement and has been serving as law director since May.
What are the biggest legal challenges facing the city?
Riley: The U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Lorain Police Department, the Community Reinvestment Area tax issue, which is currently in litigation, and the FBI investigation of certain employees of the city of Lorain.
Scherach: Many, many serious issues face Lorain. Perhaps the most serious of these issues are financial, as the income tax-producing base of the city has slowly but steadily eroded over the past 30 years.
During this time, many employers have left town and closed their plants or offices. New employers have been few and far between. Jobs have been lost and not replaced. Home foreclosures are at an unprecedented rate. As a resident and taxpayer, I am familiar with the economic issues of the city.
To make matters worse, for the past seven years, the city has been under fiscal watch as declared by the Ohio Auditor of State; this unenviable distinction serves to highlight Lorain’s economic woes.
Competent, honest, qualified legal advice from the law director is essential to the city in pursuing efforts to recover from these long-term financial setbacks. I am qualified to give this legal advice.
How would you address those issues?
Riley: The U.S. Department of Justice investigation arises from certain civil rights laws adopted and passed by the federal government. Since the inception of the law there have been, as best we can determine, 52 separate investigations into local law enforcement agencies and of those 52 investigations, we believe only one city has been able to successfully defend itself — that being Columbus. The first step was to prepare and educate ourselves and we did that by meeting with the city of Columbus Law Director’s Office to learn how they defended their police department then we used that information to prepare our defense of the Lorain Police Department.
On the CRA, the city had engaged outside legal counsel long before I became law director and that firm remains lead counsel. I am there to offer my input.
With the FBI investigation, we have met with all levels of law enforcement on the matter, including the Lorain Police Department, the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI. We want to make sure out role as law director’s office doesn’t conflict with what they’re doing and to make sure we don’t take action that compromises the city.
Scherach: In addressing these financial issues, as well as in providing legal advice for all city matters, the law director must be independent of political influence, including influence from political party bosses.
The legal advice provided by the law director must not be influenced or dictated by what might be best for a political party or best for a political boss. The law director must maintain his independence and objectivity of judgment and honor his oath of office to fairly and honestly represent the legal interests of the city and its residents, only. There can be no consideration given by the law director to outside political pressures or political influence or political friendships.
What makes you best suited for the job?
Riley: I’ve been practicing law for 30 years. My practice has been broad and it’s been serious. I’ve represented employers, individuals, nonprofit organizations and labor organizations. From that broad experience, I believe I bring to the city the training and experience that Mr. Scherach does not possess. I’ve always believed in committing myself to public service, having served as a board member for the Lorain Port Authority, on the Lorain Civil Service Commission, as a Little League baseball coach, YMCA basketball coach and having volunteered for many other organizations in town.
Scherach: I am best suited for the position of Lorain law director based on my broad legal experience, especially my eight years’ experience as the Lorain law director from 1991 to 1998. My 37 years’ experience as a practicing lawyer has given me the know-how to deal with legal issues and with people who have legal problems.
Finally, I am not obligated to a political boss or to a political buddy who is a political boss. I carry no political baggage. I am not a city hall good old boy.
As law director, I will serve only the city and its residents.
Education: Brookside High School; Miami University of Ohio; Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Family: Wife, Angie; three children, Joseph, John and Erin
Job history: Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, 1979 to 1983; Sheffield Lake city prosecutor, 1983 to 1989; private law practice; Lorain law director, May to the present.
Education: Lorain St. Mary High School; Bowling Green State University; Ohio State College of Law
Family: Wife, Charlene; three children, Michael, Jonathon and Carrie
Job history: General practice of law since 1971; Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office 1971 to 1991; Lorain law director, 1992 to 1999; Lorain mayor’s office 2000 to 2007; assistant law director in Avon Lake, 2008 to present.