August 22, 2014

Elyria
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Attorney says councilman won’t comply with order to turn over info

LORAIN — City Councilman Dennis Flores won’t comply with a subpoena ordering him to turn over the names of his telephone and email service providers, attorney Mike Duff wrote in a letter to an arbitrator Tuesday.

Flores

The city issued the subpoena last month at the request of Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera, who has ordered an investigation into how details of internal probes of misconduct allegations against two police officers became public. City officials have said that police intend to read Flores’ electronic communications to determine who shared that information with him.

The two officers, Ralph Gonzalez, who retired last year, and Jeff Jackson, who was given a two-week suspension and demoted, have filed a grievance against the city saying that the internal investigation should have been handled in a “private and businesslike manner.”

Duff wrote that the subpoena seeks documents that relate to Flores’ private life.

“The City of Lorain and the Lorain City Police Department have no legitimate concerns with the requested documents and compliance with this subpoena constitutes a wrongful intrusion into the private activities of Mr. Flores and invade his common law right of privacy,” Duff wrote.

Duff said that Flores will not appear for a hearing before Arbitrator Nels Nelson scheduled for today. He also said that the city will have to take Flores to court if it wants access to the information.

But Geoffrey Smith, the city’s human resources/risk management director, said seeking a court order against Flores is a last resort. He said he will likely file a public records request for the information.

The city contends that any communication Flores had that dealt with city business, even if it was done on a private phone or email account, is subject to public records law.

Smith said the city has no interest in Flores’ private communications.

“If he’s got stuff that’s related to city business, he should be forthright with it,” Smith said.

But Duff contends that Flores’ emails and text messages aren’t public records.

“He was just a citizen of Lorain who hears leaks and rumors about the Lorain Police Department,” Duff said.

Duff has portrayed the effort to read Flores’ communications as an effort by Rivera and police to compile a list of Police Department critics and silence Flores, who has clashed with police in the past and is awaiting trial on DUI charges.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.