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Published: Tuesday, 9/25/2007

Two sides reach agreement on courthouse records

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TIFFIN -- An agreement between attorneys for the Seneca County commissioners and historic preservationists trying to save the county's 1884 courthouse was reached late in the day yesterday.

A hearing on an issue related to the case that was scheduled for this morning in Seneca County Common Pleas Court was canceled.

Tiffin attorney John Barga, who represents the plaintiffs, said an order agreed upon by the two sides should be filed in court this morning.

Preservationists were seeking a preliminary injunction that would have prohibited commissioners from destorying or getting rid of any computer equipment that might contain records relating to the demolition of the old courthouse.

County Prosecutor Ken Egbert Jr. had approached commissioners last month about purchasing a new computer server for his office, and preservationists feared records pertinent to their fight could be lost if the old equipment were replaced.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

The original article appeared in the September 25, 2007 edition of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

Judge won't delay hearing on courthouse

TIFFIN - A hearing to determine whether Seneca County commissioners should be stopped from destroying computer equipment that could contain records pertaining to the demolition of the 1884 courthouse is to go on as scheduled today despite attempts by both sides to delay or cancel it.

Tiffin attorney John Barga, who represents six county residents who want to save the old courthouse, argued in a motion filed late Friday in Seneca County Common Pleas Court that attorneys for the commissioners informed him Sept. 18 that neither Commissioner Ben Nutter or Dave Sauber would be available for today's hearing.

Both were subpoenaed to appear and to bring to court all e-mails that dealt with the courthouse or the 15-year plan approved by the board in August, 2006, which included plans to raze the courthouse.

"These intentional absences will severely hamper the presentation of the evidence needed by the State of Ohio to secure the injunctive relief it is requesting," Mr. Barga wrote in his motion.

In a response filed yesterday, Columbus attorney Mark Landes reiterated his request for the court to quash the subpoenas for the commissioners and their staff and to cancel today's hearing.

Mr. Landes said the commissioners who could not attend the scheduled hearing "offered accommodation," but the preservationists "failed to seek their depositions or stipulations but instead waited until close of business Friday to seek a continuance."

He accused the plaintiffs of filing their motion "solely for delay."

Visiting Judge Charles Wittenberg, a retired Lucas County Common Pleas judge who is hearing the case, did not rule on either of the motions, but instead allowed today's hearing to go forward as planned at

9:30 a.m.

Mr. Barga said yesterday that he had no desire to delay the proceedings.

"I don't want it continued unless [Mr. Nutter and Mr. Sauber] can show they have good reason for not being there," he said, adding that he was told Mr. Nutter, a lieutenant with the Tiffin Fire Department, was to be in Washington for a conference.

County Administrator Cindy Keller said yesterday that Mr. Sauber would attend the hearing, but Mr. Nutter would not.

The latest volley in the legal battle over the fate of the now-shuttered courthouse arose last month when Seneca County Prosecutor Ken Egbert, Jr., presented commissioners with a price quote for a new computer server for his office.

Mr. Barga filed a motion Aug. 30 asking Judge Wittenberg to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the county from getting rid of any computer equipment until his clients can have a forensic computer expert "retrieve the information that we're looking for."

They say they suspect communications relating to the decision to raze the courthouse could be lost.

Mr. Landes said the move looked more like a ploy to question commissioners and others publicly as Mr. Barga already did when he attempted to get an injunction stopping demolition of the courthouse.

Judge Wittenberg denied that request.

"Ken Egbert responsibly asks for a contract to preserve data on his old server and get a new one so that no data is lost. Based on this, plaintiff files for an injunction against the prosecutor and the commissioners," Mr. Landes said.

"There is not a scintilla of evidence that anything would be lost, or that there is any non-privileged information on the prosecutor's server anyway."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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