The city of Chardon on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Geauga County Commissioners seeking a guarantee that certain county offices would remain in the city as the county moves forward with plans for a new $30 million office building in Claridon Township.
The proposed project to move offices from Chardon Square and the surrounding area has been a point of contention for several years. Council requested answers from commissioners in December of 2019 and last month again asked for a written commitment from the county to maintain a fully staffed office in Chardon offering services to residents.
The city maintains that state law requires certain county offices to operate from the county seat.
“Chardon has served as the county seat since the early 1800s,” the press release stated. “As the county seat, there are specific requirements defined by the Ohio Revised Code for the county government to have its office located in the county seat. People expect their county government to be located at and to operate at the county seat,” the release stated.
“The commissioners’ answer, however, has been that they are apprised of the revised code’s requirements; that they intend to keep ‘an office’ at the county seat; and that they owe the city no explanation as to what that means and what offices, operations and employees the commissioners intend to keep at the county seat,” the press release stated. The city goes on to say that a design of the proposed new office building shows commissioners’ offices located outside of Chardon.
Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz informed the city that the county is under no obligation to provide Chardon with any written commitment on the new office plan.
“It has been stated time and time again in almost every discussion that the county has had with the city that the usual office of the county commissioners will remain in the county seat in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code,” Mr. Flaiz wrote.
Chardon’s suit filed on Thursday (Oct. 15) in Geauga Common Pleas Court asks for a declaration that the commissioners’ “usual” office be maintained in the county seat along with the staff and offices of the county administrator, offices of budget and management, human resources, procurement, communications, information technology, risk-management, records management and maintenance, community and economic development.
County officials said they are aware of the lawsuit and plan to follow state law.
The city’s press release stated that Chardon would have preferred to avoid legal action. “The city, however, must protect its citizens’ rights. It cannot afford to wait until after the commissioners have created facts on the ground and then try to undo the harm after it has taken place. The negative impact to the business community and the overall economic vitality of the city cannot be ignored,” the press released stated.