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East Wayne Joint Fire District v. Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Wayne

June 24, 2019

EAST WAYNE JOINT FIRE DISTRICT Appellee
v.
SUGAR CREEK TOWNSHIP BOARD OF TRUSTEES Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF WAYNE, OHIO CASE No. 2016-CVC-H 000318

          ALFRED E. SCHRADER, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          DAVID C. COMSTOCK, JR., Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          MICHAEL G. BUYTENDYK, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          CARR, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees appeals the judgment of the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas. This Court reverses and remands the matter for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

         I.

         {¶2} Plaintiff-Appellee East Wayne Joint Fire District was originally formed by a resolution passed by the Village of Dalton, Baughman Township, Sugar Creek Township, and the Village of Marshallville. In 2014, an amended resolution was passed by the political subdivisions. The amended resolution provided that East Wayne Joint Fire District was to be funded by the member political subdivisions based upon amounts set forth in the amended resolution. The amended resolution stated that the sums are "for fire protection services."

         {¶3} In 2015, individuals running for Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees expressed an interest in withdrawing Sugar Creek Township from East Wayne Joint Fire District. In the beginning of December 2015, Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees approved a ten-year contract between Sugar Creek Township and East Wayne Joint Fire District for East Wayne Joint Fire District to provide service to Sugar Creek Township in the event it withdrew from East Wayne Joint Fire District. That contract was subject to the approval of the Wayne County Prosecutor.

         {¶4} On December 28, 2015, Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees voted to rescind the ten-year contract. A revised contract was presented, the only change being that it was a five-year contract instead of a ten-year contract. The five-year contract was approved. On December 30, 2015, East Wayne Joint Fire District voted to rescind the ten-year contract and approve the five-year contract. The five-year contract provided that East Wayne Joint Fire District would provide "fire protection emergency medical services" to Sugar Creek Township. The five-year contract specified that it would "become effective upon the withdrawal of Sugar Creek from [East Wayne Joint Fire District.]" The five-year contract did not have a certificate from the fiscal officer of Sugar Creek Township.

         {¶5} In 2016, Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees, which included a newly elected trustee, passed a resolution vacating and rescinding the approval and acceptance of the five-year contract between Sugar Creek Township and East Wayne Joint Fire District. The resolution stated that the five-year contract failed to include a certificate from the fiscal officer of Sugar Creek Township and asserted that a township trustee, who was also serving on the board of the East Wayne Joint Fire District, failed to abstain from involvement in the negotiation and execution of the contract. Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees then adopted a resolution withdrawing Sugar Creek Township from the East Wayne Joint Fire District. Pursuant to R.C. 505.371(D), the withdrawal became effective in January 2017. See R.C. 505.371(D) ("On or after the first day of January of the year following the adoption of the resolution of withdrawal, the municipal corporation or township withdrawing ceases to be a part of such district * * *.").

         {¶6} In June 2016, East Wayne Joint Fire District filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment. East Wayne Joint Fire District alleged in the complaint that the rescission of the five-year contract was improper and that voiding the five-year contract was a breach. East Wayne Joint Fire District sought a declaration validating the five-year contract. The complaint was subsequently amended.

         {¶7} Thereafter, East Wayne Joint Fire District moved for summary judgment. East Wayne Joint Fire District asserted that the five-year contract was valid, that no certification by the fiscal officer was required, and that there was no conflict of interest because Trustee Matthew Nussbaum, who served on both boards, abstained from voting on the five-year contract. Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees opposed the motion arguing that East Wayne Joint Fire District utilized the wrong statute to create the district, the five-year contract was an unauthorized length, the five-year contract could not provide for fire and ambulance services as doing so would violate R.C. 505.44, the fiscal officer failed to issue a certificate for the five-year contract, and both Mr. Nussbaum and Melvin Wyss had conflicts of interests. East Wayne Joint Fire District filed a reply and Sugar Creek Township Board of Trustees filed a sur-reply brief.

         {¶8} The trial court issued a judgment entry ...


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