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December 17th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: County Commission, Courts, Spending

State Group Opposes Deters

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Apparently, some Republicans across Ohio disagree with their GOP colleague, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

In a motion filed Wednesday with the Ohio Supreme Court, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) seeks to intervene in the complaint that Hamilton County commissioners filed against Deters. The CCAO, which is a bipartisan group that has numerous Republican members, asks to join the case as a “friend of the court” on the commissioners’ side.

The complaint was filed after 12 judges in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court held a closed-door meeting to hear Deters’ request that they terminate an outside law firm used by the county commissioners since September 1997. The judges eventually approved the request.

That law firm, Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, has represented the county on issues dealing with building The Banks, a massive redevelopment project along the Ohio River on land between the Reds and Bengals stadiums. About $11 million has been spent for the firm’s services, money that comes from stadium tax proceeds and not the general operating fund.

Deters alleged the expense was unneeded during a time of looming deficits, and that his office could perform the same services. He cited a section of Ohio law that he said gave him the authority to end the contract, without ever consulting commissioners about his action.

Commissioners countered that his office didn’t have the expertise to handle the complicated riverfront issues. Moreover, they said Deters misapplied the law and there’s no provision for terminating the relationship.

David Pepper and Todd Portune, two Democratic commissioners, said Deters — a top local Republican — did the action out of political spite and to hamper progress of The Banks project, which he opposes.

The CCAO agreed with Pepper and Portune. In its court motion, the group stated:

“Ohio’s county commissioners, like any other client in an attorney-client relationship, need the certainty and predictability that, once they have established an attorney-client relationship with special counsel, they may continue with that representation until the matter concludes, without the threat of termination at the whim of the county court or prosecutor.”

The CCAO is represented by attorney Thomas A. Luebbers of downtown’s Peck Shaffer and Williams law firm.

A Supreme Court decision on whether to reverse Deters’ action is likely within the next few weeks.

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