BUCKEYE LAKE – Village council members called for Magistrate John Berryhill’s resignation Monday night after resident Bonnie Mansfield discussed his repeated use of profanity and other inappropriate behavior.
Mayor Clay Carroll and council had earlier received an emailed transcript and recording of the profanity during the August 16 court session. Wednesday, Carroll told The Beacon he accepted Berryhill’s resignation and would provide more details in the future.
Mansfield told council she listens to the recordings of the mayor’s court sessions and in June she reported in a letter that she could not listen to the tapes in her car with her grandchildren present due to Berryhill’s foul language. His liberal use of the “F-Bomb” during a formal proceeding shocked her. She said Berryhill told the court the “F-Bomb” is a “legal term” he uses, such as “Shut the f— up,” or, “Get the f— out.”
“Not everybody talks that way,” Mansfield said. “I already know that Mayor Carroll is aware of Magistrate Berryhill’s language during court so I am also asking Mayor Carroll to explain in this meeting what he plans to do about the magistrate’s conduct and especially using the F-word four times during court.”
She provided copies of the rules established for mayor’s courts by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Rule 11 (C-2) states …. “All persons participating in the proceeding shall refrain from using foul or abusive language,” and Rule 11 (D) states, “The mayor and mayor’s court personnel should act in an appropriate and dignified manner when addressing parties, counsel, witnesses, and members of the public appearing in mayor’s court.” Mansfield said Berryhill is clearly violating those rules and asked Carroll what he planned to do about it.
Monday night, Carroll said he already spoke to Berryhill about the situation. “It should be under control,” he said, adding that Berryhill apologized and said he would “clean up his act.”
Mansfield said the apology should be directed to the public, not just to the mayor.
“The tape I heard was not just dropping “F- bombs,” said council member Robert Masone. “He was irresponsible; he was the opposite of being dignified; he was mocking the whole situation. He used so many F words, it is unacceptable behavior. I don’t think that kind of behavior is situation specific. I think that’s part of his whole persona. I don’t know this man but I don’t think he deserves a second chance. And I don’t think his saying he’ll clean it up will work.” Masone, a medical doctor, said, “I have a lot of experience in this field. I’m an addictionologist and a behavior specialist and his behavior was very egregious. I agree with Bonnie … I don’t want him representing anything in this village. I think he should be terminated.”
Mansfield said the August session was the first time she’d heard Berryhill use the “F-word,” specifically, but she believed he used it often during the meeting to be personally offensive toward her. “I took it personally,” she said. Council President Kitty Zwissler stated that they’ve been trying to improve the image of the village and this doesn’t help. “It’s unacceptable language anywhere, any place, any time,” said Zwissler.
Carroll said he’d take everyone’s recommendations under consideration but was unwilling to announce a decision immediately during Monday’s meeting.
Councilor Tim Ryan said, “It’s my understanding that he doesn’t act in a very professional manner most times in court.” Ryan asked the mayor if Berryhill jokes around or makes fun of the people in court. The mayor acknowledged there was a lot of levity but admitted that he hasn’t been to other courts and has no comparison. Ryan said he’s never been to a court where they use levity.
Council member Peggy Wells also criticized Berryhill’s inappropriate joke when he told the defendant, “The officer said you tried to grab his pistol a couple of times.” Wells stated, “Given the current climate in our country of hatred directed at police officers nationwide, this is about as bad as you can expect from a presiding judge.” She said Berryhill even made a specific comment toward Mansfield, stating he was aware she was monitoring him and the mayor’s court and would likely publish her observations.
Wells read from a letter she submitted to the clerk, “This village and our businesses are reeling from the loss of two lake recreation seasons. Our very aggressive speed monitoring at the village borders has given us the reputation as a speed trap. Businesses are losing customers as drivers simply avoid the village. (A recording of a mayor’s court proceeding) and earlier ones confirm widely held beliefs that our mayor’s court is a ‘kangaroo court.’”
Wells said Mansfield described other incidents she believed were inappropriate during the August mayor’s court proceeding in a letter to The Beacon, which appeared in the Sept. 10 edition.
Wells continued, “The magistrate’s extensive profanity, his comments about grabbing an officer’s gun, claims that a special needs person taught him the ‘F-word’ and his own acknowledgement that he is being recorded have severely damaged the mayor, council members, and residents’ reputations.
“Speaking to him about his language is far too little, too late. We must send a strong message that we don’t tolerate such language and actions in a court room in Buckeye Lake by asking him for his resignation and terminating him if he refuses to resign.”
“This is over the top of anything I’ve ever witnessed (in mayor’s court),” Carroll said, adding he’s only watched a few sessions.
Wells said she feels so strongly about the situation she would not “drop” the issue if Berryhill remains in his position, and she would continue to bring up the subject publicly.
“This is not the first time he’s done this,” said Wells reminding the mayor that he previously acknowledged Berryhill’s rough language. “It’s such a strong slap in the face”, she said. “It’s almost like he’s untouchable. The challenge of declaring in the courtroom session this is being recorded and by the way, I talk like this all the time and there’s a lady that prints it.” She said Berryhill’s arrogance is disrespectful to Carroll. “I think you should take great offense,” said Wells to Carroll.
“It was almost as if he was laying down a challenge,” said council member Doug Poorman.
Council member Tim Ryan asked Buckeye Lake Police Chief James Hanzey what would happen to a defendant who cursed in the courtroom. Hanzey said the defendant would be told to stop using foul language or face contempt charges.
Wells said she believed that Mayor Carroll was also in violation of the Supreme Court rules for mayor’s courts because Rule 13 (A) states, “The mayor is responsible for the fair, dignified, and orderly operation of the mayor’s court.”
Tuesday, Carroll said, “I believe a matter of this nature requires a certain amount of due diligence before making a decision.” Wednesday morning, Carroll told The Beacon in an email he would accepting Berryhill’s resignation. He said more details would be forthcoming.
Berryhill declined comment.
In other village news:
Safety Committee Chair Bob Masone reported that there was a large fugitive cement dust cloud captured with a photograph last week on North Bank which he planned to send to the EPA. The incident occurred as the last remaining equipment on the berm, a large soil-mixing auger and cement bulk tanks were being cleaned before being removed from North Bank. There was also a pile of cement dust left on the ground which was whipped up by the wind and then sandblasted some North Bank homes and yards. He said the incident made it difficult for residents to go outside or walk dogs.
Carroll said the village was approved for a zero interest loan to help finance a MARCS tower. Previously, council authorized Carroll to enter into negotiations with Multi- Agency Radio Communications Service, or MARCS, to improve emergency services communications via a 180 feet tall radio tower, although council members still must approve any proposed contract for service.
The project includes a 10-feet by 20-feet building surrounded by a fence near the village’s water tower. The village must invest $50,000 in the used equipments which would eventually be reimbursed to the village through radio service credits.
Carroll said a resident who lives near the skate park sent him an email complaining about the skate park. The resident said, “This skate park needs to be torn down. All it is, is a place for troublemakers to play loud music and smoke dope.” The resident said he makes frequent calls to the Licking County Sheriff’s Office for disturbances. He said the skate park is also riddled with trash and graffiti. The resident said children are afraid of the youths at the skate park and those youths have threatened him personally. He suggested placing a fence around the skate park and installing surveillance cameras.
Carroll said he and Hanzey spoke to the resident. “We’re going to try to patrol that area a little bit more,” Carroll said. He said they also tried to make it easier for the resident to contact authorities when there is a disturbance. Carroll said he believes most of the youths causing trouble are from out of town.
“Sounds like a policing issue to me,” Wells said. “You can’t say that all kids are bad.”
Carroll said he hasn’t seen much graffiti recently at the park.
Millersport Mayor Gary Matheny sent a letter to its largest water customer, telling the village that its project to replace its failed iron filter is underway. Temporary equipment has been installed to provide clean and clear water during the project, but the water softeners had to be bypassed. “You will notice a harder drinking water while this project is being completed.” Matheny wrote. “The water softener lowers the water hardness by removing calcium and magnesium – two natural minerals. These two minerals will precipitate out of the water and encrust themselves onto items creating a scale on bathroom fixtures and household cooking utensils. You may have to clean minerals off of bathroom fixtures by rinsing them with regular distilled vinegar.
“A common misconception about hard water is that it’s bad for you. Hard water does not mean unhealthy water. In many ways, it can help prevent disease and strengthen your intake of daily-recommended mineral values.”
The softeners will return to service when the project is done.