Friday, November 05, 1999

Court might sue county so it can hire more staff

And it wants money to pay legal bills

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County Probate Court officials would like the county to pay for a lawyer to represent the court — in case the court wants to sue the county commissioners.

        In a strange request Tuesday, the court asked the commission to foot the bill for attorney fees.

        Commissioners voted down the request.

        The two sides have been in a budget dispute for the better part of a year. The battle is over a handful of positions the court says it needs to do a proper job, according to Court Administrator Mark Combs.

        Since the county prosecutor represents the commissioners, Probate Court would need outside legal counsel to take any action against the county, Mr. Combs said.

        “We've never had to do this before, but it's allowable under state law,” Mr. Combs said. “We don't know if it will even be necessary, but we wanted to lay the groundwork in case it is.”

        Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said the request would have been a waste of tax dollars.

        “I don't think it's the best way to go about solving this dispute,” Mr. Bedinghaus said. “Our staffs ought to be able to get together and iron out the differences.”

        County Administrator David Krings said he can't recall such a request ever being made in his career. He thinks the two sides can work out a compromise soon.

        “I'm in hopes we can work something out that will be fair to the taxpayers as well as the court,” he said.

        Mr. Combs said probate court has an ever-increasing number of cases to process, and those cases are increasingly complex.


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