The Cleveland developer who claims Mayor Byron W. Brown operated a pay-to-play scheme at City Hall wants to question Steve Casey, the mayor's former second in command.
A federal judge says the developer will have to wait.
In a ruling this week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio put Casey's deposition and every other aspect of discovery on hold until the courts rule on Brown's latest defense – legislative immunity.
Casey, Brown's former deputy mayor, is viewed as a key witness in the lawsuit by NRP Properties and, according to the developer, will verify their core contention that Brown killed a $12 million East Side housing project because of politics.
The civil suit against the city, Brown, Casey and former Masten Council Member Demone Smith centers around the allegation that Brown killed the NRP deal because of the Rev. Richard A. Stenhouse.
NRP claims Casey, in recent statements provided to the developer, confirmed that Brown demanded a role for Rev. Stenhouse and, when it became evident such a role would not be provided, issued an order to kill the project.
In recent weeks, Brown's lawyers have raised the issue of legislative immunity and argued that Casey's deposition should be delayed until the courts decide if it applies to city officials in this case.
The concept of immunity dates back to the founding fathers and was designed to prevent elected officials from being sued for actions they took or decisions they made while serving in government. The goal was to avoid frivolous lawsuits against public officials and to insure that public service would remain appealing.
NRP’s lawyers claim the immunity argument is nothing more than a delaying tactic and, in court papers, suggest Brown might be worried about a “potential criminal investigation by federal authorities” looking into their pay-to-play allegations.