WASHINGTON C.H. — Resolution is expected soon in the dispute over alleged open meeting law violations during the vote for Fayette County Auditor in April, according to counsel representing the plaintiffs in the case.
A pre-trial hearing was held Monday in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas on the amended complaint filed over the election of the Fayette County Auditor.
Members of the Fayette County Republican Central Committee and Fayette County Auditor Aaron Coole appeared at the pre-trial hearing with their attorneys; respectively William T. Junk for the committee and Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade for Coole.
The plaintiffs in the case are Jomi Ward, Cathy Templin and former auditor Mike Smith, who filed suit alleging Ohio open meeting law violations occurred during the April 13 Republican Central Committee meeting conducted to vote in a new county auditor. The attorney for the plaintiffs is Patrick M. Quinn.
Counsel and party members were asked to be in the court for the hearing to discuss the issues during the pre-trial, said Fayette County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven Beathard.
Quinn for the plaintiffs said he has had “very, very preliminary conversations with the defense attorneys,” but said he is confident the issue will be resolved by settlement before it heads to trial.
“Are there any significant facts in dispute?” asked Judge Beathard.
“Your honor we have not discussed that,” said William Junk, attorney for the committee.
However both sides agreed, there is no need to file for discovery in the case, including for depositions and interrogatories.
“I see very little need for discovery. It’s a very unusual case,” said Junk.
“We do not intend to request discovery but would certainly comply with any request for discovery,” said Weade.
Judge Beathard said both sides are required to disclose witnesses and will need to file their information by the close of business Sept. 25.
If the two sides cannot reach a settlement, the case will proceed into an evidentiary hearing that is scheduled for Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.
Members of the Fayette County Republican Central Committee listed in the suit include Jim Chrisman, Lauran Perrill, Susan Meriweather, John Link, Ronald Palmer, Evelyn Pentzer, Marlene Rankin, Andrew Bivens, Oscar Mckinney, Sidney Terhune, Ted Hawk, Dan Roberts, Frank Breedlove, Wayne Arnold, Gordon Conn, Karen Abendshein, Tabitha Melvin, Susan Jordan, Carol Creamer, Charles Anderson, Robin Beekman, Diane O’Cull, E. Renee Lloyd, Martha Cooper, and Ruth Ann Ruth.
Coole won the Fayette County Auditor appointment election during the Fayette County Republican Central Committee meeting April 13 but a suit was filed days later. The suit alleges the committee entered into executive session April 13 but did not define the purpose of the meeting; alleges no roll call vote was taken prior to entering into executive session; alleges that while still in executive session the committee voted on who to appoint to the vacant county auditor seat; alleges the vote was conducted in executive session by a secret ballot; alleges the committee then re-opened the meeting and declared Coole as the winner; alleges the committee refused to release to the public either (a) the vote totals received by Coole and candidate Mossbarger or (b) information regarding which candidate each of the committee members voted for; alleges the committee did not keep any minutes of the meeting.
According to the answer filed in court, the committee denies the allegations.
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton
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