Taxpayers face $150K bill for legal costs in dispute between Greene commissioners, judges

Greene County commissioners are looking at the potential costs to pay attorneys representing the board and judges in a dispute to be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The dispute over courtroom three has resulted in two cases currently pending in the state’s highest court.

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Greene County commissioners filed a “writ of prohibition” on March 15 against a court order from Probate Judge Thomas O’Diam. The county’s court filing is aimed at stopping an order from O’Diam that demands the commission agree to move probate operations to the larger, more fully equipped and secure courtroom three.

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O’Diam subsequently filed a writ of mandamus on March 26 with the Ohio Supreme Court, demanding the court force the county to allow him to move probate operations to courtroom three and rescind the commissioners’ decision to move those operations out of the historic courthouse and into the basement of the juvenile justice center.

Fees to pay for the commission’s legal counsel is estimated at $25,000, according to county records.

For O’Diam, the commission has considered one proposal to cover legal counsel at between $53,000 and $60,000, according to county records.

Costs for legal counsel to represent General Division Judges Stephen Wolaver and Michael Buckwalter could be the same, putting the total estimated cost at $150,000, according to Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

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Commissioners will vote today whether to reject the proposal for O’Diam’s legal fees and to advertise seeking bids from other law firms to represent O’Diam and the General Division judges.

Costs to renovate the basement at the juvenile justice center to create a courtroom for probate operations were estimated at $30,000, and the work could be completed in 30 days, according to discussions at the commission’s last meeting.

Commission President Tom Koogler emphasized during the discussion that these costs are being paid for by taxpayers.

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