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Myers v. Department of Taxation

Court of Claims of Ohio

April 25, 2019

TIMOTHY M. MYERS Requester
v.
DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION Respondent

          Sent to S.C. Reporter 7/5/19

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JEFFERY W. CLARK SPECIAL MASTER

         {¶1} On June 15, 2018, requester Timothy Myers made a public records request to respondent Ohio Department of Taxation (DOT):

I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of any tax filings or records for the years 2012 through 2017 for the following LLCs that constitute the Columbus Crew S.C. soccer team (with entity numbers):
1001854- CREW SOCCER STADIUM LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY
921353- TEAM COLUMBUS SOCCER, LTD.
2372465- PRECOURT SPORTS VENTURES LLC
921435- MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY

         (Complaint at 3-4.) The DOT responded that release of these records is prohibited by R.C. 5751.12. (Id. at 2.) On August 16, 2018, Myers filed a complaint under R.C. 2743.75 alleging denial of access to public records in violation of R.C. 149.43(B). Following unsuccessful mediation, the DOT filed a response to the complaint on November 13, 2018. On December 7, 2018, the DOT filed a supplemental response. On December 21, 2018, the special master granted the motion of Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC, Team Columbus Soccer, L.L.C., and Crew Soccer Stadium Limited Liability Company to intervene pursuant to Civ.R. 24. Intervenors filed their brief on January 4, 2019. On February 13, 2019, Myers filed a reply to the pleadings of the DOT and Intervenors. On March 18, 2019, Intervenors filed a sur-reply. The DOT has filed an unredacted copy of the requested records under seal.

         Records Filed Under Seal

         {¶2} The records filed under seal fall into four categories: 1) tax withholding records (Bates No. 1-211, 280-355, 424-534), 2) pass-through entity tax records (Bates No. 356-423), 3) commercial activity tax records (Bates No. 212-239, 535-559), and 4) sales tax records (Bates No. 240-279). The tax withholding records consist of tax returns showing the amount of state income taxes and school district taxes paid by Crew Soccer Stadium LLC, Major League Soccer, and Team Columbus Soccer on behalf of their employees, as well as data printouts derived from those returns. The pass-through entity records consist of pass-through entity withholding tax returns and related filings by Precourt Sports Ventures which show the amount of pass-through entity taxes withheld for investors in Precourt Sports Ventures. The commercial activity tax records consist of the quarterly commercial activity tax returns filed by Crew Soccer Stadium and Team Columbus Soccer. The sales tax records consist of state sales tax returns filed by Crew Soccer Stadium.

         Burdens of Proof

         {¶3} In a claim to enforce Ohio's Public Records Act (PRA), the burden is on the requester to prove an alleged violation. In mandamus:

Although the PRA is accorded liberal construction in favor of access to public records, "the relator must still establish entitlement to the requested extraordinary relief by clear and convincing evidence."

(Citation omitted.) State ex rel. Caster v. Columbus,151 Ohio St.3d 425, 428, 2016- Ohio-8394, 89 N.E.3d 598, ¶ 15. Claims pursuant to R.C. 2743.75 must likewise be established by clear and convincing evidence. Hurt v. Liberty Twp.,201 ...


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