Liberty Township residents Jim Hurt and Mark Gerber have filed a motion for a show of cause hearing with the Ohio Court of Claims against the township.
They claim they have not received the full scope of the notes attorney Douglas Duckett compiled in the investigation of the township’s former fire chief, Tim Jensen.
Trustee Melanie Leneghan said she is confused about the intent of Hurt’s and Gerber’s motion.
“I’m not even sure what they want,” she said. “I thought they wanted the Duckett notes from the investigation. I thought that is why we’ve been in court all this time, I’m confused what they are talking about.”
Duckett, a Cincinnati attorney, was hired by trustees in March 2016 to investigate the conduct of Jensen as fire chief. In his investigation, Duckett compiled notes to be used to complete his final report to trustees.
Hurt and Gerber began requesting the Duckett notes in May 2016. After their repeated requests were denied by township officials, the two residents filed a claim with the Ohio Court of Claims, which delivered its decision March 29, determining the notes to be public documents.
Included in a motion for a status conference filed in the Court of Claims by the township’s attorney, Stephanie Schoolcraft of Fishel of Bass, Kim, Albrecht, Downey LLP, is an affidavit from Duckett.
“I provided copies of my investigatory file, including notes I took during other points of the Ohio Revised Code … investigation and documents relied upon during the investigation, to Liberty Township’s legal counsel on November 16, 2017,” Duckett stated in the affidavit.
Schoolcraft also stated in her motion that the township is working to comply with the Court’s order in releasing the notes.
From the motion, “… Administrator Huffman notified the Requestors (Hurt and Gerber) that Liberty Township was working to fulfill their request.”
Hurt said he and Gerber have received emails with about seven documents attached to each one.
“They’re documents related to the case we’ve been asking for all along that they have not been providing,” he said. “It’s still not all the documents; we’ve only received a small percentage.”
Hurt and Gerber state in their motion, “It is worth noting that at no time has any Court or the Special Master limited the public records requested to the notes taken during the witness interviews nor has there ever been a ruling eliminating any of the numerous requests for public records set forth in the Complaint.”
In the conclusion of their motion, it states, “… Respondent continues its bad faith efforts to avoid the obligations of Ohio’s Public Records law by violating this Court’s Order that was issued pursuant to a motion to compel. The Court is respectfully requested to schedule a Show Cause Hearing to determine … sanctions to impose on Responder (township) and, … , the individuals who have ignored the law and this Court.”
Township attorney Stephanie Schoolcraft filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court on June 5 asking the court to review “whether the personal notes of a non-employee private citizen appointed pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code are public records even though the personal notes were not provided to, maintained, or used by … Liberty Township.”
The Fifth District affirmed the lower court’s ruling April 8 after which Judge Patrick M. McGrath, Ohio Court of Claims, wrote an order compelling the township to release the notes: “Respondent shall deliver a copy of the ‘Duckett notes,’ with redaction based on any applicable public records exceptions, to requesters’ service address on or before November 3, 2017.”
Hurt, Gerber, and The Gazette received an email from township administrator, Matt Huffman, Nov. 3 containing a PDF of only typed notes from Duckett’s formal interviews.
The Gazette has not received any further documents from the township concerning the investigation by Duckett.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.