Beachwood council delays vote to hire law firm to investigate ‘anonymous and defamatory threatening emails’ | Local News

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Beachwood City Council voted 4-3 to file an order allowing Mayor Justin Berns to retain Minc Law in Orange “to investigate anonymous, defamatory and threatening emails and online posts directed to or about administrative staff superior” at its meeting on 7 November.

Beachwood’s chief legal officer, Stewart Hastings, who recommended the order, told the board that the primary target of “at least one social media post” and “more than a few emails” has already filed a complaint. hostile workplace complaint and threatened to sue the city. He said more than one employee had complained and described the accusations in the posts and emails as “very explicit outrageous accusations…which, while true, should not be spread on the workplace”.

“It is imperative that we find out who or who” is the source of the emails and messages, he said.

He said the city’s typical avenues for investigating an incident like this were blocked by the anonymity of the messages, and the city would take “appropriate discipline” if they were done by an employee.

Berns said Beachwood employees have claimed a hostile workplace for years.

“It’s going to stop now,” he told the city council, raising his voice.

He said employees need to know “that they can come into a workplace where they can feel safe.”

Council Chairman Alec Isaacson said he wanted to get things done as quickly as possible.

“Time is of the essence here,” he said, “We don’t have much time to mess around.”

He said he was also concerned about the message a delay would send to employees.

“It’s important for us to show them that we support them, and by not doing that, we’re going to lose critical people from this organization,” Isaacson said.

Five residents spoke out at the meeting criticizing potential expenses of up to $25,000 at Minc Law.

“Tonight you are voting to spend money on what looks to many of us like a witch hunt,” Shana Wallenstein told the council.

In a presentation to the council, Aaron Minc of Minc Law, said that it can be essential to act quickly in order to be able to determine who the sources of the emails and internet posts are and that he has already done some initial research. with a Swiss company, which agreed to keep the information.

Minc and Hastings said the source of the posts and emails claimed to have inside knowledge of how the city operates. Minc also said the substance of the posts and emails met the bar of defamation, including lying and malicious intent.

However, several council members said they had not seen the messages or emails in question.

The Board also voted unanimously to remove language from Minc Law’s engagement letter regarding representation to remove material from the internet, which Berns told the Cleveland Jewish News was previously standard language, but never intended. by the city. Vice President Eric Synenberg made the motion, seconded by Isaacson.

After just over an hour of discussion on the matter, council members Mike Burkons, Joshua Mintz, Danielle Shoykhet and June Taylor voted to table the item. Isaacson, Barbara Bellin Janovitz and Synenberg voted against.

This is a developing story.

Editor’s note: Aaron Minc is a member of the board of directors of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company.

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