Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Mining company defeated

Woman's affidavit enough, judge says

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — The owner of a Boone County bed and breakfast Tuesday won her battle with a mining company over the company's efforts to depose her about her activities in opposition to a proposed underground limestone mine.

        Jennifer Warner had earlier refused to answer some questions from Hilltop Basic Resources attorney Bill Robinson, but had presented him with a sworn affidavit that she had no additional information about her contact with members of the Boone Fiscal Court related to the proposed mine.

        Mr. Robinson filed a motion in Boone Circuit Court to compel Ms. Warner to answer specific questions and supply him with any correspondence, telephone records, calendars, e-mails and other material that had anything to do with her opposition to the mine.

        After listening to statements from Mr. Robinson and Ms. Warner's attorney, Ed Kagin, Judge Jay Bamberger ruled that Ms. Warner's affidavit stating she had no additional information was sufficient and ruled that she had complied with Hilltop's requests.

        “This is a big win for Jennifer,” Mr. Kagin said. “She overcame the efforts and the money of a big mining company that had attempted to deny her constitutional rights and to intimidate her.”

        Hilltop filed a complaint and appeal in September 2000 to overturn a 3-0 decision by Boone Fiscal Court denying the mining company the necessary zoning to construct the environmentally sensitive underground mining operation in western Boone County not far from Ms. Warner's bed and breakfast.

        Hilltop, a family-owned Cincinnati business that supplies concrete to major construction projects, wants to build the underground limestone mine on 534 acres along the Ohio River north of the Petersburg interchange of Ky. 20 and I-275. Hilltop planned to use barges, rather than trucks, to move the limestone.

        In its complaint, Hilltop said county commissioners may have been unduly influenced by a group of county residents who actively opposed the mine proposal.

        Acting on behalf of Hilltop, Mr. Robinson subpoenaed 13 people, including Ms. Warner, ordering them to submit to deposition hearings.

        Judge Bamberger reiterated an order that “This court recognizes the right of Hilltop to be assured it got a fair shake in the (planning and zoning) proceedings. The court stands by its earlier decision that Hilltop has the right to discovery.”

        But he emphasized that the sworn affidavit signed by Ms. Warner answered all of Hilltop's questions.

        Mr. Robinson said his client was pleased that the judge “validated Hilltop's right to discovery and documents in this matter.”

        He indicated during Tuesday's hearing that Ms. Warner might not have been entirely truthful in her affidavit and may have additional correspondence and other materials in her possession, which would amount to perjury.

        “There's the Commonwealth Attorney right over there,” Judge Bamberger said, pointing across the courtroom. “Maybe you should talk to her.”

        After the hearing, Ms. Warner again emphasized that “no one has done anything wrong here. There was no reason for any of the (13) people to have to give depositions.”

        She said she did not anticipate any further action against her by Hilltop.

        Mr. Robinson said Hilltop would respect the judge's decision and move forward with the appeal.


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