Monday, October 2, 2017
A three-term judge is under fire amid questions of a lax work schedule, excessive spending and claims that she’s using her office to campaign for re-election.
Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge Mary Kaye Bozza denies any inappropriate conduct or misspending, yet she finds herself embroiled in a voter’s lawsuit over records she’s refusing to release.
She’s accused of working what amounts to a 4-day work week, missing as many as two dozen Fridays this year alone.
Michael Kaplan, a Highland Heights resident, has filed suit, seeking records showing when Bozza worked and when she took sick or vacation time.
Bozza has said the records do not exist.
The judge declined an on-camera interview. But in a phone call with Channel 3 News’ Tom Meyer, Bozza denied working a 4-day work week, saying that as a judge she frequently works outside the courthouse.
Critics have photographed her empty parking spot repeatedly this year and noted 25 Fridays and 18 other work days when Bozza was not at work.
This month, for example, Channel 3 News watched on a Friday as Bozza arrived at work after 2 p.m. She stayed until 5 p.m. Her dockets on Fridays are typically covered by one of three magistrates assigned to the court.
Bozza refused to explain her whereabouts Friday to Meyer.
“I don’t have to tell you how I spent the rest of the day,” Bozza told Meyer.
Bozza says she’s missed 12 days this year, but she could not provide documents showing her attendance.
Records released by Bozza show the court has spent $93,544 on visiting judges the past six years to help run her docket. However, records from the Ohio Supreme Court show Bozza’s docket to be one of the 10 most active in the state.
The records also show Bozza spent thousands to travel to judicial conferences in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida and New Orleans. She is also given a cell phone and iPad and bills from Verizon routinely surpass $200 a month, according to records released by the court.
Bozza said she uses the iPad to conduct court business. She is unaware if other judges are provided a free cell phone.
Kaplan filed an action before the Ohio Supreme Court seeking release of Bozza’s office emails that she and city attorneys have so far refused to surrender, citing exceptions to state public record laws.
Kaplan’s attorney, Larry Zukerman, said the emails may show additional evidence that Bozza is using court resources for re-election purposes.
"The public should know when they're working and what they're doing and what they're working on,” Zukerman said. “My client just wants to make sure that the citizens of all these municipalities that pay for the court are getting their money’s worth.”
As proof of his client’s concern, Zukerman pointed to the court’s public access website which contains language such as “Experience Matters” in bold letters on Bozza’s page. The motto is identical to the words found on Bozza’s campaign website.
Bozza, first elected in 1999, has never had a challenger for re-election. This year, she is opposed by attorney Dominic Coletta.
The court covers Lyndhurst, Mayfield Heights, Mayfield, Highland Heights, Richmond Heights and Gates Mills.
Hat tip to web page of the Ohio Supreme Court. (Mike Frisch)