OTTAWA — Judge Dale Crawford gave both sides of the Road 5 litigation a talking to during a pretrial hearing Thursday at Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
The pre-trial was called because Linde Webb, one of the Toledo-based attorneys representing the Road 5 residents, filed a motion of continuance for the jury trial scheduled to begin Oct. 9. That was in response to the Putnam County commissioners ordering a $64,000 appraisal of the 13 Road 5 properties in dispute, stating they needed time to study those findings and do an appraisal of their own, said Frank Reed, attorney for the commissioners.
Webb also filed a motion to withdraw as representation for two of her clients without any explanation beyond “irreconcilable difference.”
The litigation over Road 5 has been going on for six years now, ever since the Commissioners used eminent domain to appropriate approximately 10 feet of land from properties along either side of Road 5 so the roadway could be expanded. The commissioners violated multiple Ohio Sunshine Act laws while planning the project, according to a previous ruling.
Crawford’s message was basically “enough is enough.”
“We are now at a point where we have gone through six years of litigation back and forth,” Crawford said. “What I’m going to do is, I’m going to try these cases. The county needs them tried. The people need them tried. We don’t need to live with them for another six years. The county doesn’t need to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in more attorneys’ fees.”
Crawford then encouraged both sides to move to different parts of the courthouse and try one more time to settle the Road 5 litigation without taking it to trial. Both sides ended up taking Crawford’s advice and spent approximately two hours negotiating.
The commissioners and their attorneys moved to the commissioners’ office, while the lawyers for the Road 5 residents sat with their clients in the Common Pleas courtroom. The attorneys took individuals from the courtroom and into the third-floor law library when a deputy arrived with offers from the commissioners.
Two residents removed themselves from the case. Bob and Thomas Patrick ended their attorney-client relationship with Webb and told Frank Reed to donate their payment for the land appropriated from them to charity. This action was the source of Webb’s motion to withdraw as representation.
Bob Patrick said his family got involved in the Road 5 litigation because they didn’t believe the original offer was fair. The representative of the commissioners told them they didn’t have a choice because eminent domain was going to be used to take their land anyway. After they found out the commissioners violated Ohio Sunshine Act laws and were using eminent domain as a hammer to take property, they joined the litigation, Patrick said.
“It was just a fight I thought needed to take place,” he said. “Obviously over a six-year period, it just got out of control, and it got skewed. When we won on appeal and we won at the state Supreme Court and absolutely nothing changed, other than they said the county had to pay our legal fees, Tom and I said it’s not serving a purpose. We’re not accomplishing a thing, we opted out. Which is why we’re not going to take the payment for the property. We’re just not going to accept it because it’s still not right.”
After approximately two hours of individual negotiations, the trial scheduled to begin on Oct. 9 is still moving forward, but the commissioners have made offers to each resident in the lawsuit, which they have until 5 p.m. Friday to accept, Crawford said.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362