By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BATAVIA - A proposal to create a municipal court clerkship in Clermont County has passed both houses of the General Assembly and now needs the governor's approval.
It was initially thought that the plan was attached to the budget, which Gov. Bob Taft signed June 26. But because of a clerical error the proposal was instead attached to a bill creating a permanent judge's seat on the Ohio 5th District Court of Appeals, said Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland.
On Friday, Schmidt said she spoke with the governor's chief of staff and was assured the measure would be approved . When the governor gives his OK, it will clear the way for the county to split a department that has grown exponentially over the past decade.
But there are some in Clermont who aren't entirely pleased with the pending change.
Republican Barbara Wiedenbein had planned to run for the clerk's spot in 2004. Now the Union Township businesswoman, who has already spent about $1,000 on campaign signs and T-shirts for the 2004 race, is trying to decide whether she'll go for the municipal spot or the common pleas spot.
"I do understand why this was done - Clermont County is one of the fastest growing counties in Ohio - but I think it should have stayed with one clerk. Somebody that is competent enough to handle both offices - it could have been done," Wiedenbein said.
She said the change should have been approved after current Clermont Clerk of Courts David Caudill stepped aside. Caudill has said he does not intend to seek reelection in 2004.
"I was basing my whole campaign on being the clerk of courts, not a divided clerk of courts," Wiedenbein said. "I'm definitely going to run, but at this point ... I've got to decide which one I want."
According to the legislation, the municipal clerk would earn about $86,000 annually, while the common pleas clerk would earn about $54,000. The municipal salary is higher because that office has a much higher caseload. It oversees about 44,000 cases annually.
In the past, under a "dual-duty" clerk, the salary was about $75,000, which included a 25 percent pay supplement for doing both jobs.
Dan Bare, director of the Clermont County Board of Elections said that once the governor approves the plan, the municipal spot would be placed on the ballot this November.
Assistant Clerk of Courts Tim Rudd, another Republican mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2004 clerk's race, could not be reached for comment.
Clermont commissioners approved the measure 2-1. Croswell gave the only dissenting vote, saying that he isn't prepared to spend money the county can't afford to spend.
However, Caudill contended that the cost to the county will be minimal at best, since the staffing is already in place and a new municipal court, complete with space for the municipal clerk's office, is under construction.
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