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Published: Saturday, 2/7/2004

Court tells insurer to pay attorney fees

The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that attorney fees incurred by Sylvania Township to defend the board of trustees and administrator in an open-meetings and public records lawsuit must be paid by the township s insurance company.

The decision reversed the ruling of Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge William Skow in a lawsuit filed by the township against Twin City Fire Insurance Co. in 1999.

Judge Skow ruled last year that the township s policy with Twin City Fire Insurance did not cover the township s attorney fees in defending the trustees and administrator in a lawsuit filed by Sherry Specht and other township residents.

Ms. Specht and two others sued the township in April, 1998, accusing township officials of violating Ohio s Open Meetings Act and wasting and mishandling public funds.

Then-trustees Donald Finnegan, Jr., Dock Treece, and George Fanning, Jr., and Administrator James Maxwell were found in violation of the open-meetings law by Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge James Jensen.

The residents were granted a preliminary injunction with the trustees ordered to comply with the act and fined $2,500 for violating the law. Later, Judge Jensen ordered the trustees to pay attorney fees of $16,500.

Twin City said none of the underlying claims in the residents lawsuit sought “damages” as defined within the policy, and the company denied coverage of the township s legal costs.

The township sued Twin City for breach of contract and demanded payment of the defense costs for the lawsuit less a $10,000 deductible.

Toledo attorney Reginald Jackson represented the township in the lawsuit filed by Ms. Specht as well as the lawsuit filed by the township against the insurance company.

“This means that some money should be coming back to Sylvania Township for reimbursement of legal fees paid to my firm,” Mr. Jackson said. “I look forward to the last piece of this case being resolved. It has been a long time.”

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