Clinton County commissioners can be advisors for charitable fund, says Ohio AG

Ohio A.G. issues opinion

By Gary Huffenberger -




WILMINGTON — A key step has occurred for the planned creation of a charitable fund consisting of millions of dollars that come from the former county-owned hospital’s operations.

An Ohio Attorney General legal opinion was issued this week, giving Clinton County commissioners guidance concerning the membership makeup of an advisory board for the fund.

As many as all three of the Clinton County commissioners are permitted to serve on such an advisory board, according to the Attorney General’s 7½ page opinion.

Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley, back in February 2016, indicated he wanted legal clarification on whether a commissioner can sit on a board that would have a role in awarding the grants. On Thursday, Haley said he regards the legal opinion as “good news.”

That’s because, he said, the money left from the former county-owned hospital’s operations is taxpayers’ money, and the Attorney General’s Opinion will allow elected representatives — one or more county commissioners — to help oversee the taxpayers’ money “which I think is always a good thing.”

Haley said the next step is for the commissioners to discuss all their options, and perhaps hold work sessions on what their next steps will be.

Previously, county commissioners indicated they expected to entrust money remaining from the operations of then-county owned Clinton Memorial Hospital to the Clinton County Foundation, pending the drafting of a donor agreement.

The Foundation can more aggressively seek interest income than the county, commissioners have said.

The plan for the use of the funds has been for the money to go toward the general health, safety and welfare of the community, commissioners have said previously.

An advisory board, once formed, is expected to receive and review applications for grants, and then make recommendations to the Clinton County Foundation on the disbursement of funds, said Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew T. McCoy, who serves as commissioners’ legal counsel.

McCoy said Thursday he is excited to receive the legal opinion.

The upshot of the Attorney General Opinion, said McCoy, is now the Board of County Commissioners “clearly knows what their options are, in terms of the makeup of any advisory board associated with a donation to the Clinton County Foundation.”

The Attorney General Opinion, he added, addresses the question whether the commissioners can continue to have a significant input in regard to certain proceeds linked to the county’s sale of Clinton Memorial Hospital.

The Clinton County Foundation allows for donor-advised funds — funds that the Foundation holds and invests.

According to the Attorney General Opinion, a county transfer of the CMH funds to the Foundation can either be structured as an endowment, in which case only the interest income from the principal will be disbursed, or it may be structured so that the interest and part or all the principal can be disbursed.

McCoy said he thinks the new opinion from Columbus “confirms what we believed all along.”

The clarity provided by the opinion provides a good opportunity to move forward on the planned fund, said McCoy.

“I know it’s something they’ve [county commissioners have] been anxious to do, and we appreciate the assistance of the Attorney General in giving us this guidance,” McCoy said.

Just last week, Clinton-Massie Local Schools Superintendent Matt Baker asked commissioners whether there is an opportunity to get dollars at low interest from the county for stadium lights which he said are becoming a safety hazard.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.


Ohio A.G. issues opinion

By Gary Huffenberger