The Stark County Board of Commissioners will not pay a $33,805 legal bill for his lawsuit heard by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Stark County Board of Commissioners will not pay a $33,805 legal bill for attorneys who represented then-former Sheriff Timothy Swanson in a lawsuit heard by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In November, the law firm of Baker, Dublikar, Beck, Wiley & Matthews presented commissioners an invoice detailing their work. It included 175 hours, mostly from February through March of last year, at a rate of $150 or $200 per hour for the three attorneys.
Commissioners didn't pay it.
Last month, Swanson himself followed with a letter to commissioners, urging prompt payment.
"If my attorney's invoice is not paid promptly, I will have no choice but to request that my counsel initiate legal action to compel the Board to pay the invoice," Swanson wrote.
Commissioners again balked.
County Administrator Brant Luther explained their rationale in a letter to Swanson on Dec. 6. Luther noted that, among other issues:
• Swanson made no formal application for counsel on his behalf to the Board;
• the Supreme Court's November decision did not award attorney fees;
• and the Board had no opportunity to vote on the expense before Swanson hired the firm.
"If you are able to provide us with persuasive authority indicating that the Board of County Commissioners is obliged to pay ... we will certainly reconsider your request," Luther wrote.
Swanson said he'll pursue the matter.
"If that's the game they want to play, then I'll play too," he said.
Swanson said he'll now seek back pay for every day George Maier has held office. If successful, Swanson said he'd use the money to pay the attorneys' bill, then donate any surplus to charity.
"I'm not looking for money ... or prestige," said Swanson, who worked at the sheriff's office for four decades and as sheriff for 13 years.
The legal wrangling began when Michael A. McDonald — elected in November 2012 — was too ill to take office in January 2013. So, Swanson remained the sheriff until his successor was named.
A month later, local Democratic Party leaders voted for Maier. Swanson challenged the appointment in court on grounds Maier lacked the lawfully required background for the job.
Maier remained in office pending the outcome of the case. That came in November when the Supreme Court agreed with Swanson. So, Maier was out and Swanson back in. Given an opportunity for a do-over in December, Democratic leaders again selected Maier.
And that's where it stands now.
Maier has believed his background, which included a stint as assistant director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, fulfilled the legal background requirements to serve as sheriff. After he was ousted in November, though, he worked for a month as a full-time deputy at the Harrison County sheriff's office in an effort to garner qualifications the Supreme Court said he lacked.
Swanson said commissioners made a mistake by paying Maier's $20,000 legal bill to Roetzel & Andress before the Supreme Court ruled he lacked the required background qualifications.
"They did represent him and they shouldn't have; they didn't represent me and they should have," he said.
Swanson said he and his attorneys will soon discuss their next legal steps.
Reach Tim at 330-580-8333 or on Twitter: @tbotosREP