561 N.E.2d 909 (Ohio 1990), 89-160, State ex rel. Vana v. Maple Heights City Council

Docket Nº:89-160.
Citation:561 N.E.2d 909, 54 Ohio St.3d 91
Opinion Judge:MOYER, Chief Justice.
Party Name:The STATE, ex rel. VANA et al., Appellees, v. MAPLE HEIGHTS CITY COUNCIL et al., Appellants.
Attorney:Friedman, Gilbert & Berezin and Alec Berezin, for appellees. Joseph W. Diemert, Law Director, Reddy, Grau & Meek, Francis X. Reddy, Jr., and Paul A. Grau, for appellants [54 Ohio St.3d 92] Maple Heights City Council, et al. Sindell, Rubenstein, Einbund, Pavlik, Novak & Celebrezze and Frank D. Cel...
Judge Panel:SWEENEY, HOLMES, DOUGLAS and WRIGHT, JJ., concur. HERBERT R. BROWN and RESNICK, JJ., dissent. HERBERT R. BROWN, Justice, dissenting. RESNICK, J., concurs in the foregoing dissenting opinion.
Case Date:October 10, 1990
Court:Supreme Court of Ohio
 
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Page 909

561 N.E.2d 909 (Ohio 1990)

54 Ohio St.3d 91

The STATE, ex rel. VANA et al., Appellees,

v.

MAPLE HEIGHTS CITY COUNCIL et al., Appellants.

No. 89-160.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

October 10, 1990

Page 910

Submitted June 19, 1990.

Syllabus by the Court

A provision in a city charter that prohibits an elected official from simultaneously holding other public office or other public employment does not violate the Equal Protection Clauses of the Ohio and United States Constitutions. (State, ex rel. Platz, v. Mucci [1967], 10 Ohio St.2d 60, 39 O.O.2d 48, 225 N.E.2d 238, approved and followed.)

Relator Joseph M. Yoder was elected to the City Council of Maple Heights ("the council") in November 1985. In the November 1987 election, respondent Gerard "Jerry" Zgrabik defeated Yoder and replaced Yoder on the council. Zgrabik was reelected in 1989, during the pendency of this litigation, and is currently in office. At all times relevant to this litigation, Zgrabik was employed by the Board of Education of the Maple Heights City School District as its supervisor of purchasing and food service.

Relators, Alice Vana and Joseph M. Yoder, brought this action in mandamus and quo warranto in the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County against the council and its members, including Zgrabik. Relators alleged that Zgrabik was unqualified to hold office by virtue of Section 4, Article III of the Charter of the City of Maple Heights, which states in pertinent part:

"No * * * elective officer [other than the mayor and president of council, who are permitted to serve on regional committees,] shall hold any other public office or public employment except that of Notary Public; a member of the State Militia; a member of the Military Reserve Corps of the United States not on active duty; or a teacher employed in any public school system outside of the City of Maple Heights, and no other elective officer shall be interested in the profits or emoluments of any contract, work or service for the Municipality."

Relators sought writs compelling Zgrabik to vacate his seat on the council, and reinstating Yoder. Respondents claimed, inter alia, that Section 4, Article III is unconstitutional. The court of appeals granted the writs.

This cause is now before the court upon an appeal as of right.

Friedman, Gilbert & Berezin and Alec Berezin, for appellees.

Joseph W. Diemert, Law Director, Reddy, Grau & Meek, Francis X. Reddy, Jr., and Paul A. Grau, for appellants [54 Ohio St.3d 92] Maple Heights City Council, et al.

Sindell, Rubenstein, Einbund, Pavlik, Novak & Celebrezze and Frank D. Celebrezze, for appellant Gerard Zgrabik.

MOYER, Chief Justice.

In the case before us, appellant Zgrabik concedes that Section 4, Article III of the Maple Heights Charter prohibits him from holding office. He contends, however, that this provision violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the Ohio and United States Constitutions because it lacks a rational basis

Page 911

and infringes on rights of political expression. Since Zgrabik challenges the charter classification under the Equal Protection Clauses, we must first determine the appropriate standard of review.

Legislation enacted by a municipality ordinarily is presumed to be valid and the enacting body is presumed to have acted constitutionally. Xenia v. Schmidt (1920), 101 Ohio St. 437, 130 N.E. 24. Under a traditional equal protection analysis, class distinctions in legislation are permissible if they bear some rational relationship to a legitimate governmental objective. Departures from traditional equal protection principles are permitted only when burdens upon suspect classifications or abridgments of fundamental rights are involved. Clements v. Fashing (1982), 457 U.S. 957, 963, 102 S.Ct. 2836, 2843-44, 73 L.Ed.2d 508.

Zgrabik does not contend, and we do not find, that he is a member of a suspect classification which, as such, would justify a departure from the traditional equal protection principles. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has not recognized candidacy as a fundamental right invoking a "rigorous standard of review." Bullock v. Carter (1972), 405 U.S. 134, 142-143, 92 S.Ct. 849, 855-856, 31 L.Ed.2d 92. For, as this court previously noted, " * * * there is no fundamental right to run for public office." State, ex rel. Keefe, v. Eyrich (1986), 22 Ohio St.3d 164, 165, 22 OBR 252, 489 N.E.2d 259, 260.

Thus, since neither a suspect classification nor a fundamental right is involved, the charter restriction must be upheld " * * * if it bears a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest. * * * In a rational-basis analysis, we must uphold the statute unless the classification is wholly irrelevant to the achievement of the state's purpose." (Footnote deleted.) Menefee v. Queen City Metro (1990), 49 Ohio St.3d 27, 29, 550 N.E.2d 181, 183.

Applying the rational relationship test to the Maple Heights City Charter, the charter is easily able to withstand the proper standard of review. Even though it is not possible to glean from the charter itself all the reasons it was adopted, it is apparent that by prohibiting elected officers from having an interest in "the profits or emoluments of any contract, work or service for the Municipality," the electors of the city were concerned with actual or potential conflicts of interest as well as the appearance of impropriety by city council members. The city may properly determine that it wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety...

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