Mill Creek park director named in $2.2 million 'retaliation' law - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Mill Creek park director named in $2.2 million 'retaliation' lawsuit

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Aaron Young Aaron Young

Controversial changes and decisions at Mill Creek MetroParks have turned into a $2.2 million dollar lawsuit against the park board, its executive director, members of the park police department and the operator of the park cafe.

Patricia Tinkler and Peter Mitchell Lynch, who formerly operated Friends Roastery in Salem and the Garden Cafe in the park, filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

The suit claims that Tinkler and Lynch were victims of alleged retaliation by Aaron Young, after they became critical of some of his actions when he became the park's Executive Director.

The couple claims they operated the Garden Cafe at Fellows Riverside Garden without any issues since 2015, until August 2016, when the park board terminated their lease nearly a year and a half before it was to expire.

The suit alleges that a few months prior to losing their lease, there were “dramatic upheavals” in MetroParks management which undermined the couple’s relationship with park management.

The lawsuit cites several examples of controversial moves by the park board at the time, including the termination of several long time employees, a debate over the board's position on fracking and injection wells, as well as a decision to euthanize 238 geese that park officials say had become a nuisance.

Tinkler and Lynch say they participated in the public debate, much of which focused on criticism of Young and his decisions.

Lynch claims that Young told him in August that their cafe lease had been terminated because they had “three strikes” against them.

The lawsuit alleges that Young stated that the first two of those “strikes: were that Lynch had “liked” a Facebook post criticizing Young, and that Tinkler had told another person that Young’s conduct and all the controversy it creates were hurting business and costing Friends revenue.

The third alleged “strike” was that Lynch had told an adult park intern that he had heard rumors about an alleged affair she was having with an park employee.

Lynch claims that as a result, Young had members of the park police department investigate him and Tinkler in order to harass and intimidate them.

The lawsuit says that that Young later informed the couple that the lease was actually terminated for their failure to pay the rent. Lynch and Tinkler deny that they were behind on rent payments, according to the suit.

The suit also names Jack Kravitz and Kravitz Delicatessen as defendants, claiming Kravitz negotiated his subsequent contract to operate the Garden Cafe while Lynch and Tinkler still had a valid contract.

In addition to alleging a breach of contract, the couple says the actions of the defendants violated their rights to free speech and to assemble.

The suit asks for a jury trial, seeking a total of $2.2 million in damages for “financial, mental and emotional injury and mental and physical anguish and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment.”

None of the defendants have filed a response to the lawsuit, which was just filed on Thursday.

21 News has reached out to officials from the park and Jack Kravitz, who have yet to issue a reaction.

The lawsuit can be viewed here

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