Ohio lawmaker to withdraw Cleveland housing court bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio lawmaker says he is withdrawing legislation that would have abolished Cleveland’s housing court after questions were raised about him having pending cases before the court.

Democratic Rep. John Barnes Jr. of Cleveland introduced a bill last week to eliminate the housing court judge position and move cases to municipal court.

But Barnes told cleveland.com (http://bit.ly/1TTgloR ) on Thursday that he plans to withdraw the bill after he spoke with an attorney.

“This does not mean that at some point in time I will not re-introduce this legislation because based on evidence there is historical systematic corruptibility,” he said in a statement.

Barnes said that the housing-specific court with its separate judge, magistrates and staff members have become too close with city housing and building officials.

Eliminating the court would return impartiality to the process, he said.

Court records show that Barnes is involved in two active cases regarding properties he owns with his father.

State rules and laws prohibit lawmakers from using their office for direct personal benefit.

Barnes said his experiences with the court were part of the inspiration behind the bill, but that his personal experiences were separate from the legislation.

The bill had angered northeast Ohio housing advocates. They said the court, which was created in 1978, and Judge Ray Pianka, who’s presided over it since 1996, are key to improving city neighborhoods.

“He’s using his power to negate something very personal to his situation with the houses he owns,” said Angela Shuckahosee of the Cleveland Tenants Organization. “It’s like getting a DUI and abolishing traffic court.”


Information from: cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com

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