Wednesday, Jun 29, 2016
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Judge blocks relocation of tax office in Fremont

FREMONT - The judge of Sandusky County's juvenile and probate courts yesterday barred the county commissioners from moving the tax map office into newly renovated space on the first floor of the courthouse.

Judge Brad Culbert filed identical orders in the juvenile and probate courts against the planned move and instructed the commissioners to attend a hearing before him at 1 p.m. Feb. 7.

The judge, who wants to use the first-floor area for his office staff, including magistrates, said in his filing that the commissioners have ignored his courts' need for more office space.

Joe Albrechta, an attorney for Judge Culbert, said his client acted late yesterday afternoon after the commissioners refused requests to delay the move of the tax map office from the courthouse basement to the first-floor area. That space was the commissioners' office until they moved in October, 2003, into the county's old jail behind the courthouse.

"The orders will be served upon the commissioners Monday morning by the Sandusky County sheriff," Mr. Albrechta said last night.

"We're hopeful that the commissioners will decide to terminate their operations and approach this matter in the appropriate manner," Mr. Albrechta said.

The attorney said Judge Culbert wrote to the commissioners in March, 2003, asking about possible use of their then-office space for his court, which also is on the first floor of the courthouse.

"There has never been a specific denial or response to that letter," Mr. Albrechta said. "Moreover, the county commissioners have never officially acted ... There's no resolution, there's been no formal hearing on what that space is going to be used for."

Mr. Albrechta said state law going back to the 1840s gives county judges authority over the use of space in court buildings and that rulings have supported that right.

Commissioners Dan Liskai, Brad Smith, and Terry Thatcher could not be reached for comment last night.

The commissioners said earlier this week that they would not change their plans for the tax map office, in part because equipment already had been ordered for the first-floor office.

Judge Culbert also is locked in a dispute with the commissioners over the budget for the juvenile and probate courts and the county's juvenile detention center.

Earlier this week, he asked the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management to try to negotiate a settlement with the commissioners.

The judge argues that the commissioners' budget for 2005 leaves him $123,500 short of the money he needs to operate the two courts and the detention center.

Yesterday's order did not address the budget disagreement.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.

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