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Published: Thursday, 10/5/2006

State will not pay for costs of attorneys; high court rules in BWC-Taft case

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU
Dann Dann
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COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ruled against state Sen. Marc Dann (D., Youngstown) in his request that the state pay for his attorneys' fees in the public-records lawsuit he filed against Gov. Bob Taft last year to get more information about the Bureau of Workers' Compensation scandal.

Without a written opinion, the court voted 6-1 to side with the governor, who argued that Mr. Dann, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, was not eligible to have taxpayers pick up the $52,236 tab.

Mr. Dann had cited several public-records lawsuits in which the winning side has had its attorneys' fees paid.

The dissenter was Justice Alice Robie Resnick, the high court's sole Democrat.

Frederick Gittes, the Columbus attorney representing Mr. Dann, said the Supreme Court ruling means he and his co-attorney, Kathaleen Schultz, won't be paid $49,587 in fees.

Mr. Dann is paying for $2,649 in costs, including copying and delivery bills, Mr. Gittes said.

"This is a problem because unless you are an affluent person or a major institution like the press, most people can't afford to bring these actions, and lawyers are reluctant to do them," Mr. Gittes said.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Taft and future governors of Ohio have a limited power to keep some office records secret from the public.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that documents Mr. Taft did not release failed to meet the new legal test of "executive privilege" and were not exempt from the public-records law.

But the court did not order that those weekly reports from top aides to the governor be released to Mr. Dann, saying they did not pertain to the bureau.

"Since the Supreme Court made its ruling recognizing executive privilege, we believe and argued that [Senator Dann] should not have been entitled to legal fees," said Governor Taft's press secretary, Mark Rickel. "It was over."



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