The section’s clients
include Ohio’s departments of Administrative Services, Agriculture, Commerce, Development, Public Safety, and Health, Ohio’s five public pension funds, and numerous boards and commissions. The section’s thirty attorneys counsel their clients regarding compliance with Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, represent their clients in transactional matters, and litigate cases for their clients before administrative agencies and state and federal courts.
Within the section are three units that focus on specific areas: the Business Counsel Unit, Workers Compensation Defense Unit and the Tobacco Enforcement Unit.
The Business Counsel Unit
advises and represents the Attorney General’s Office and Ohio’s officeholders, agencies, commission and institutions of higher education in a wide variety of transactional and business matters, including in the areas of procurement, real estate, construction, public finance, energy conservation and intellectual property.
The Tobacco Enforcement Unit
has three primary responsibilities:
to enforce the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the settling states and the participating tobacco manufacturers;
to provide all legal advice to major recipients of Ohio tobacco settlement dollars, including the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation and the Third Frontier Foundation; and
to provide legal services to the Ohio Department of Health in enforcing the state's indoor smoking ban (Smoke Free Workplace Act).
The Workers Compensation Defense Unit
represents state agencies, state universities, boards and commissions, the General Assembly and the Ohio Supreme Court and lower courts, in their capacity as employers in workers’ compensation matters. The Unit argues cases at the administrative level and represents clients in Common Pleas and Appellate Courts, and the Ohio Supreme Court.
In fiscal year 2012, the section handled 879 administrative hearings, 322 open meetings, 24 court hearings, 10 appellate arguments, and reviewed over 2,000 contracts.
The Executive Agencies Section works with the Health and Human Services Section to publish the Administrative Law Handbook
The section also coordinates the retrieval of all common pleas court decisions (since January 1, 2012) in administrative appeals involving state agencies represented by the office and makes those decisions available to the public here
Wymsylo v. Bartec, Inc., et al.
, Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2012-Ohio-2187. The Court held that the Smoke Free Act is a proper exercise of the State’s police power, and that it does not constitute an improper regulatory taking of property. Angela Sullivan and Stacy Hannan, Associate AAGs, represented the Department of Health in this matter.
Richard K. Rose v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
, U.S. District Court, Case No. 2:10-CV-874. The U.S. District Court granted the State Farm Marshal’s motion to quash a subpoena issued by the Plaintiff in a bad-faith insurance case. The Plaintiff had subpoenaed the SFM’s investigator who investigated an alleged arson. The Court held that the SFM’s interests in preserving the confidentiality of the arson investigation trumped the Plaintiff’s need for the information in his lawsuit. Keith O’Korn, AAG, represented the State Fire Marshal in this matter.
State ex rel. Attorney General Mike DeWine v. Andrei Georgescu, et al.,
2011 CIH 326, Scioto County Court of Common Pleas. The Attorney General filed a nuisance abatement action and got a temporary restraining order immediately shutting down the “pill mill” clinic. The AAGs were also successful at the hearing on the preliminary injunction held December 28, 2011. Bridget Coontz, AAG, assisted in representing the Attorney General in this matter.
Department of Agriculture v. Central Erie Supply & Elevator Association, et al.,
Erie County Common Pleas Court, Case No. 2010-CV-0780. The court upheld Ohio Department of Agriculture’s first priority lien against grain proceeds in grain warehouse insolvencies, even when the proceeds are also subject to a bank’s right of set-off. James R. Patterson, Associate AAG, represented the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture in this matter.
Edwards Funeral Service, Inc. v. Ohio Dept. of Health and the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors,
Franklin County Common Pleas, Case No. 11-CV-3772. A trial was held to determine two main issues: 1) whether the Funeral Board violated the Open Meetings Act and 2) whether both the Department of Health and the Funeral Board have authority to determine what is an “other authorized disposition of a dead human body.” The Plaintiff had started using alkaline hydrolysis to dispose of dead human bodies. In a stunning end to the second day of trial - the Court granted the State Defendants a directed verdict on all eight counts of the complaint. Cheryl Hawkinson, Senior AAG, represented the Funeral Board in this matter.
State ex rel. Andrew M. Kolcinko v. Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund
, Supreme Court Case No. 2011-0850. Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund’s denial of disability retirement was upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court held, “Under R.C. 742.38 and Ohio Adm. Code 742-3-05, the OP&F board is vested with the exclusive authority to evaluate the weight and credibility of the medical evidence in determining a member’s entitlement to disability-retirement benefits.” Jennifer Croskey, Assistant Chief, represented OP&F in this matter.
State ex rel. Motor Carrier Service, Inc. v. Carolyn Y. Williams, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle and Thomas J. Stickrath, Ohio Dept. of Public Safety
, Tenth District Court of Appeals, Case No. 10AP-1178. The magistrate ruled in BMV’s favor against Motor Carrier Service’s mandamus suit, holding the BMV properly provided a redacted driving record in response to a public records request. William Cole, Principal AAG, represents the BMV in this matter.
Business Counsel recently partnered with the Ohio Board of Regents and the Inter-University Counsel of Ohio to facilitate the work of the University System of Ohio’s Research and Commercialization Task Force. The Task Force promotes the transfer of research and technology from the state’s higher education institutions to the business community to spur economic development and create jobs. Business Counsel helped develop contract templates, including nondisclosure, sponsored research, master research and testing agreements, which state colleges and universities can use when partnering with private industries to conduct research and move the resulting innovations to market. The templates are intended to simplify negotiations, making the state more attractive for new and emerging science and technology enterprises.
Business Counsel recently provided legal guidance to two community colleges in the negotiation and development of collaboration agreements with a developer for the provision of additional classroom facilities for these schools. Under this innovative approach to funding classrooms, the developer will redevelop existing commercial buildings for use by the colleges in exchange for sharing a portion of the revenues generated by the use of the new facilities.
Attorneys from Business Counsel, along with outside counsel and representatives of the Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio School Facilities Commission and the Ohio State University, collaborated in the Construction Reform Documents Working Group, which prepared the rules and contract documents needed to implement newly-available construction delivery methods (Construction Manager at Risk, Design-Build, and general contracting) for public construction.