Nick McWilliams reporting – Foregoing discussions in executive session to discuss ongoing litigation between two entities in a tax-sharing agreement with income tax involving Claymont High School, some Uhrichsville council members expressed displeasure over the current legal battle.

That agreement, reached in 1998 by then members of both the city and the village of Dennison, saw 63 percent of income taxes collected from employees of the high school go to Uhrichsville, and the remaining 37 percent directed to the village.

Payments ceased after Mayor Mark Haney received an opinion from Kip Wahlers of Ice Miller LLP law firm in late 2020, stating that the agreement was not valid.

Uhrichsville council was slated for an executive session on the subject Thursday night, but opposition from Councilmembers Jim Zucal, Amy Myers, and Matt Fox, along with Council President Buck Cottrell led to the open-door session instead.

Zucal, who has voiced opposition to the payments ceasing, said that he did not want to see higher legal bills stemming from the court battle the disagreement had led to, and supported the payment of the more than $44,000 owed.

“We’re continuing to pay taxpayers money, which is everybody’s money in the city. We’re all smart enough to know that. We continue to put more money in a losing battle, when there’s an Ohio Supreme Court ruling. We’re just wasting taxpayer money. So the people that want to be held accountable for wasting the taxpayer’s money, keep doing it. And see what results it gets you.”

Zucal made a motion to stop funding the law firm hired by Uhrichsville to handle the matter in court, which was given yes votes by Fox and Myers. Michael Huff, Wendy Mann, Bill Goshorn, and Terry Engstrom voted no, turning down the motion.

Haney on Friday said that city officials had a three-hour mediation meeting the previous week with no changes to report, and that his opinion remains about the validity of the agreement.

“We got a legal opinion under Article 7 of the contract that says if you have a legal opinion, [the agreement] becomes non-binding. In my letter to the village of Dennison, I made it very clear that we were willing to sit down [to renegotiate.] We’re not suing the village of Dennison. They’re suing us. They weren’t willing to sit down and talk with us until mediation.”

Law Director J.J. Ong stated that he was not comfortable with the topic of litigation being discussed in an open meeting, and said it could leave the city open to additional suits. He has had to distance himself from the proceedings, due to previous involvement as the solicitor in Dennison.

Haney says that further meetings with Ice Miller are expected to update city administration on the next steps in the litigation.

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