Legal challenge over Nelsonville City Council seats headed to state Supreme Court

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Two women who claim they belong on Nelsonville City Council are taking their dispute to the Ohio Supreme Court after an appellate court dismissed the lawsuit. 

The high court has to decide if former council President Margarita Nguyen and Sue Powell, an appointment Nguyen made to fill a vacant seat, filed their lawsuit in a timely manner. 

The lawsuit stems from Nguyen’s resignation in February, and her decision to take back her resignation less than a day later. 

The court of appeals ruled Nguyen and Powell waited too long to file their lawsuit after it was clear they were no longer welcome on council.

The two are represented by attorney Josh Brown, who said the court ignored the fact Nguyen continued to act as president even though some council members accepted her resignation. 

“I’m planning to argue the court of appeals is wrong, because they’re using the wrong date,” Brown said. 

Nguyen acted as president of Nelsonville City Council for over a month after her resignation, but the court said a majority of council members had already accepted her resignation. 

“Nguyen had knowledge that she had been replaced as city council president and that her attempt to rescind her resignation from council was rejected,” the court said. 

Brown argues the court focused on the wrong time period for determining whether the lawsuit was filed soon enough.

“It wasn’t till she was actually denied the right to act as a member of council or as president that that timeline triggered,” Brown said. “We’re not sure why the court feels that it was triggered after the resignation because she wasn’t kicked off and denied her right.”

This lawsuit was filed in the appellate court first, which means the Supreme Court is required by the Ohio Constitution to review the case, Brown said. 

If the high court decides in Nguyen and Powell’s favor, it could force the city to undo ordinances and contracts that were close votes with the council members who filled their seats.