Courtroom litigation costly, board says

By Anna Bolton - [email protected]

XENIA — Greene County commissioners say litigation to resolve the ongoing courtroom dispute — which they most recently brought to the Supreme Court — could cost $150,000 of taxpayers’ money and last a year.

Outside legal counsel is needed for all parties — the board, the general division and the probate division — since the prosecutor’s office cannot represent the board or the judges as it would be a conflict of interest. Payment would come from the general fund, according to County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

The commissioners discussed the costs at a regular meeting May 24, but they didn’t take action. Commissioner Bob Glaser was not present and Commissioner Alan Anderson has recused himself from the matter due to conflict of interest; one vote cannot carry a motion.

Huddleson said he’ll recommend the board to reject the one bid they received while advertising for counsel and to then advertise for bids again.

The board still seems to be sticking to their most recent solution: moving the probate division to the lower level of the juvenile court building, 2100 Greene Way Boulevard.

Huddleson said the open space, which was once used as a classroom, has more square footage than Judge Thomas O’Diam’s current courtroom and has more space for the rest of his operations. He said it would cost less than $30,000 — also from the general fund — to renovate and would take no more than 30 days to complete.

“We could’ve had that completed by now,” Commissioner Tom Koogler said.

O’Diam cited lack of adequate capacity as well as serious safety concerns for public and court personnel as reasons for his current room’s inadequacies, and the reason he wants exclusive control of Courtroom 3.

“The lack of separation of the Probate Judge, Magistrate, court personnel and the public from criminal defendants is directly contrary to the recommendations in the Ohio Supreme Court’s Court Security Standards, and presents a serious risk to public safety,” the court order entry reads.

Huddleson said again May 24 that he couldn’t give the probate division exclusive use of Courtroom 3 right now because the general division is utilizing it and the general division also has a conflicting court order on the matter.

He said even if the parties go through the litigation, he thinks the end result may still be moving the probate division to the juvenile court building.

The action to reject the proposed bid and advertise for legal counsel was tabled; Koogler and Glaser will vote on it at another time.

By Anna Bolton

[email protected]

Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.

Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.