COLUMBIANA CO. Board to weigh response to order

An Ohio Supreme Court appeal or a settlement are among the options being weighed.
LISBON -- Columbiana County commissioners expect to huddle with attorneys over how to respond to a court order issued earlier this month that calls for reinstating furloughed county jail workers.
The strategy session tentatively is set for May 30 and will be in private, Commissioner Jim Hoppel said Wednesday.
Commissioners will meet with Atty. Mark Skakun of Buckingham, Doolittle & amp; Burroughs, the Akron law firm that represented the county in the matter that resulted in the jail workers' ruling.
A representative of the county prosecutor's office also will be invited, Hoppel said.
The meeting will be on an opinion issued May 11 by the 7th District Court of Appeals.
Workers reinstated: The appellate court upheld a 1997 arbitrator's award that reinstates dozens of laid-off county jail workers although there are no public jail jobs awaiting them.
The 42 employees were furloughed in February 1997 from the county jail, which has been operated since early 1998 by a private company using its own employees.
The court ruled on a matter brought before it in November 1999 by the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the laid-off workers.
The union argued that the furloughs violated the employees' labor contract.
In August 1997, an arbitrator agreed and ordered the employees reinstated with back pay.
The award was contested by the county in county common pleas court and resulted in visiting Judge John Milligan scrapping it. The arbitrator had no legal authority to order the employees reinstated, Judge Milligan determined.
The union appealed to the 7th District and won, partly because the county failed to file motions to either vacate or correct the award.
"I believe at this time, until I hear anything different, that our attorneys did what was necessary" to represent the county, Hoppel said.
Skakun recently said he doesn't fully understand the appellate court's opinion regarding the failure to file motions.
Supreme Court: The county may fight the ruling before the Ohio Supreme Court, Hoppel said.
A cash settlement with the affected employees also is possible. "I don't think we'll close the door on anything right now," Hoppel said of a settlement consideration.
Atty. Paul Cox of Columbus, who represented the FOP, said he's willing to entertain a settlement proposal. "I'll talk to them if they're reasonable," he added.

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