Ohio’s high court will not hear Rist appeal

Published 9:52 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

Justices voted 5-2 against the case

The Supreme Court of Ohio will not hear the appeal of a former Ironton police officer terminated for falsifying a traffic ticket.

After a 5-2 vote, the high court announced Wednesday that it will not hear Beth Rist’s appeal to get her job back.

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Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor as well as Justices Paul Pfeifer, Evelyn Stratton, Robert Cupp and Yvette Brown agreed that the court’s jurisdiction should be denied and the appeal should be dismissed. Two justices, Terrence O’Donnell and Judith Lanzinger dissented.

According to Ohio law, Rist has 10 days during which she may file a motion for the court to reconsider its decision.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Rist’s attorney, Marc Mezibov of Cincinnati, said he is disappointed in the high court’s decision. In the long run, he said, the decision is not in the best interest of the people, especially those affected by collective bargaining. Mezibov said they are considering whether or not file for reconsideration.

On Mezibov’s advice, Rist declined to comment.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship was reached for comment Thursday morning.

“The court doesn’t give a reason why (it won’t hear the case) but I’m glad the case is over,” Blankenship said.

The former policewoman and current city councilwoman was fired in 2008 after admitting to writing a ticket to someone other than the actual driver of a vehicle. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to two years probation for falsifying a traffic ticket.

Rist filed a grievance protesting her termination.

An arbitrator determined that she had been fired without cause and ordered that she be reinstated to her position as a police officer.

After the city appealed the arbitrator’s decision in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, Rist’s termination was reinstated.

In October, she appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, which upheld her termination.

In December 2010, she appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

In a separate legal action, Rist filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Ironton and its police department in June 2010 in U.S. District Court.

In that lawsuit, the former police sergeant claimed she was fired because of her gender and in retaliation for her documented opposition to what she alleges was discriminatory treatment.

The lawsuit alleges that her termination and the city’s failure to reinstate her were motivated by a desire to discriminate against her for protesting a hostile work environment.

The case is still pending in the federal court.

In 2001, Rist, who was hired in 1996 as the department’s first female officer, successfully sued the city on grounds of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.