‘Wait and see’: Marion City Council member charged with rape continues to sit on council

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A Marion City Council member appeared at a council meeting Tuesday night for the first time since his arrest on charges of forcibly raping a 13-year-old girl, but not one word about the criminal case was raised by other council members or the public during the meeting.

Ayers Ratliff, a Democrat first elected to city council in 2005, was arrested on May 20 after the teen girl told police Ratliff had raped her the night before. He is currently out of jail on a $500,000 bond and will next appear in court Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing.

Members of the public who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting commented on matters such as the city’s choice of vendor for financial services and an ordinance that could place a six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana vendors opening in the city. For its part, the council conducted city business as usual.

“I guess it’s just a matter of wait and see,” Mayor Bill Collins told The Dispatch following the meeting when asked about Ratliff’s position, adding that a decision to remove Ratliff would likely have to be made by council.

Council president Mary Stoneburner told The Dispatch after the meeting that she was not aware of any discussions about removing Ratliff from council and that such action before a criminal conviction “would probably be premature.”

“He’s entitled to due process,” Stoneburner said.

She could not say how a city council member would hypothetically be removed from office, forwarding further questions on that matter to the city law director.

Ratliff’s position can currently only be vacated if Ratliff himself resigns, Councilman Jason Schaber told The Dispatch after the meeting. If Ratliff were convicted, Schaber said he could be removed by the state of Ohio.

Immediately after Ratliff’s arrest, Marion County Prosecutor Ray Grogan put out a video statement vowing to treat Ratliff like any other defendant, despite his political status. But the city government remained silent then on Ratliff’s future as a city council member.

The Dispatch contacted several members of the city government following Ratliff’s arrest, including Mayor Collins, Council President Stoneburner, numerous city council members, and Law Director Mark Russell, asking if any action would be taken against Ratliff. None returned the phone calls or voicemails, and the city has not put out any public statements about Ratliff.

Tuesday’s City Council meeting began like any other, with a prayer by a local pastor. Council members discussed repairs to city hall, entering into an agreement with Veritas Solutions Group for financial services, and other matters of city business. Ratliffs voted on each ordinance.

The council also read an ordinance that would place a six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, or processors within the City of Marion.

In a phone interview a day after the arrest, Rocky Ratliff, a cousin and attorney to Councilman Ratliff, said the allegations against his cousin are false and accused county prosecutor Grogan of filing the charges with insufficient evidence and political motivations. He said Ayers Ratliff and his legal team would seek to hold on to his council seat.

Rocky Ratliff also identified the girl to a Dispatch reporter and called her a “troubled teen.” The dispatch does not identify alleged rape victims.

A judge overseeing the case ruled that some documents filed by attorneys for Ratliff be redacted because an identifying detail about the girl was included in those, which were accessible to the public online.

The girl underwent a sexual assault examination at a local hospital, and clothing with evidence of bodily fluids was recovered from Ratliff’s house when a search warrant was carried out on the premises, according to court records.