A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling gives state probate courts broad jurisdiction to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by park districts and take corrective actions to ensure that these districts are operating in accordance with the law, said Stephen Funk, a partner at Roetzel & Andress.
In its 7-0 decision on April 14, the Ohio Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition sought by Chester Township and its trustees (Michael J. Petruziello, Bud Kinney and Ken Radtke Jr.) to prohibit Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Timothy J. Grendell from issuing or enforcing rulings against them in the case that created the Chester Township Park District.
The township trustees argued that Judge Grendell imposed duties, obligations and fees on them without the jurisdiction to do so.
Funk served as lead counsel to Judge Grendell in a dispute that arose from a March 2014 anonymous report known as the “Chester Township Park District 2013 Review.”
According to the Ohio Supreme Court opinion, the report questioned whether the park district was being run in accordance with the law. It also asked if park district funds had been mismanaged.
In response, Judge Grendell appointed attorney Mary Jane Trapp as a master commissioner under R.C. 2101.06 to investigate the issues raised in the report and make recommendations.
The Ohio Supreme Court opinion said Trapp came up with a number of findings including that “the township leadership and some citizen activists have a very incomplete understanding of the independent nature of the park district and what laws are and are not applicable.” She concluded that “the park district was created as a separate political body, with independent authority to levy taxes and control the park lands.”
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