The Delaware County Board of Elections held a special public meeting Monday morning (Jan. 1) to discuss updates in the upcoming Berlin Township referendum protest hearing. Due to schedule conflicts, the board moved the hearing date to Thursday, Jan. 18 at 9 a.m.
The change was made at the request of the board’s attorney, Laura MacGregor Comek. She was appointed to represent the board of elections in the matter.
“Vorys and she worked out a date that they both would be available for,” said Deputy Director Anthony Saadey. “In our discussions, we came up with the Jan. 18 as being the best for everybody.”
On Oct. 9, 2017, Berlin Township trustees approved the rezoning of 24 acres of land located along U.S. 36 and State Route 37 from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial. The request came from the property’s owners Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, which proposes developing Savko Commerce Park, an industrial park that includes the construction of a concrete batching facility.
A group of township residents organized a petition for a referendum opposing the rezoning decision. Graeme Quinn, one of the township residents who initiated the petition, submitted the petition to Berlin Township’s fiscal officer on Nov. 6. Berlin Township trustees approved a resolution certifying the petition and sending it to the board of elections Nov. 13. The board of elections certified the referendum for the May 2018 ballot on Nov. 28.
Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP attorneys, Joe Miller and Chris Ingram, then filed a protest in opposition to the board of elections’ decision on behalf of Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, the owners of the property in question.
County Commissioners approved an application presented by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Betts on Dec. 28 to request that outside counsel is appointed to represent the board of elections in the matter of the referendum.
Betts said that the prosecutor’s office has counseled both the township and the board of elections in the matter and that there is an “actual perceived conflict of interest.” He told commissioners that under the Ohio Revised Code, a joint application is required between the prosecutor’s office, the board of commissioners, and the common pleas court.
“Chris brought it to the common pleas court, one of the judges has to sign off on it,” Saadey said. “Chris said he was going to follow through with it and make sure it gets signed this week.”
Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien, recognizing the need for outside counsel, stated in an affidavit with the application, “The board of elections will require legal representation at the hearing and, if the board of elections’decision is challenged, the board of elections and its decision will need to be defended in the courts.”
“We’ve spoken with all the parties,” said BOE Director Karla Herron.
Saadey said Comek would be charging the board her government rate of $225 per hour.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.