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New acting prosecutor appointed in Perrysburg

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    Perrysburg City Council President Jim Matuszak wants an investigation into the firing of the city's assistant prosecutor.

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    James Matuszak

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    Tom Mackin

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Chynna Fifer is the city of Perrysburg’s acting prosecutor, despite a 4-3 council vote rejecting the city administration’s nomination of her as the city’s next prosecutor.

Ms. Fifer, who was working as an assistant Wood County public defender, was appointed to fill the duties of P. Martin Aubry, the city’s longtime prosecutor, while he is off the job ahead of his pending retirement at the end of March. The administration hopes to appoint Ms. Fifer to replace him.

The administration does not need council approval to fill most positions. City law director Karlene Henderson said somebody needs to be there to do the work while Mr. Aubry is away, and that Ms. Fifer is qualified to do the work.

Contracting with attorneys is the standard procedure for getting the work done when the prosecutor is away for any reason, Ms. Henderson said.

The city had contracted with Corey Speweik to serve as an assistant prosecutor for 2016, but the relationship continued through 2017 and until Feb. 7, 2018 — the day after Ms. Fifer’s appointment was rejected by city council.

Council president Jim Matuszak said Mr. Speweik was escorted out of his office by police.

“If the timing of this doesn’t seem odd to a reasonable person, it’s probably an unreasonable person,” Mr. Matuszak said on Friday.

Mr. Speweik was paid $60 per hour, and was not to exceed $25,000 in total over the term of the one-year contract, which expired at the end of 2016. Perrysburg Mayor Tom Mackin said he was paid more than $38,000 over that contracted amount in 2017, in part because of what he called lax oversight from the administration. Any hours Mr. Speweik worked had to be assigned by Mr. Aubry, the head of the department.

“The lion’s share falls on the contractor ... but the burden is on both of us,” Mr. Mackin said. “The prior administration was not watching the store.”

He said there is no connection between the rejected nomination on Feb. 6 and severing Mr. Speweik’s relationship with the city the following morning,

“They’re two separate things,” he said.

Mr. Matuszak said the series of moves from the administration directly contradicts the will of council.

“I formally object to this course of action, and, unless it stops immediately, I will be asking council to exercise its powers set forth under Article III, Section 10.0 of the Charter of the City of Perrysburg, as needed,” he wrote in an email to city officials and media outlets.

That article of the city charter includes the council’s impeachment powers.

Mr. Matuszak did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday, nor did Mr. Speweik.

The full-time prosecutor position was posted by city officials with applications due by Feb. 26.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Mackin said.

Contact Zack Lemon at zlemon@theblade.com419-724-6282 or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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