| July 10, 2019
The Columbus law firm of McTigue & Colombo has been approved by Williams County Commissioners to act as special prosecutors on behalf of the Williams County Elections Board in its defense of the 3-1 vote to deny a petition to place a county charter issue on November’s ballot.
The board, on Monday, denied the ballot issue, stating that the proposed charter issue exceeds the scope of the powers afforded to local governments by the state.
The Williams County Alliance, which originated the county charter proposal and worked to secure valid voter signatures through the petition process, is represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge — who specializes in environmental and energy issues and is associated with the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
Lodge and the environmental defense fund have been involved in several Ohio charter issues, including the Lake Erie Bill of Rights passed by Toledo voters in February.
On behalf of the Alliance, Lodge, on Tuesday, informed the board of elections that he found denial of the petition unlawful and unconstitutionally invalid. He requested that the matter be heard in Williams County Common Pleas Court on or before July 17.
McTigue & Colombo were brought in at the request of Williams County Prosecutor Katie Zartman because of the firm’s expertise in election law and ballot access.
Charter-related law is very complicated, Zartman said during an emergency meeting of the Williams County Board of Commissioners on Monday morning. The law firm has the experience and will add to the efforts of her office in addressing the issue before the courts.
Zartman said her office wasn’t recusing itself from the matter, but will be assisted in defense of the board of elections by McTigue & Colombo. The agreement with the firm specifies legal services and legal advice concerning the board’s decision not to certify a county charter initiative petition to the ballot, and responding to petitioner’s counsel’s request to provide reasoning for the decision.
The request for appointment of the law firm had to be approved by Common Pleas Court Judge J.T. Stelzer and then by the Williams County Board of Commissioners. Billing for the law firm is stated at $300 per hour for attorneys and $100 for paralegal work.
The matter is expected to be heard in Williams County Court of Common Pleas by July 17.