Language In Proposed Budget Amendment On Park Districts Labeled 'Unclear' By ACLU of Ohio

Apr 20, 2017

The group "Protect Geauga Parks" says its concerned about the proposed legislation, which would affect park districts statewide.
Credit KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

A proposed amendment to the state budget has some people asking whether it would allow probate court judges to penalize people who “interfere with a park district’s purposes" -- including, potentially, protesters.

Gary Daniels with the ACLU of Ohio says the language is unclear, and he hopes lawmakers realize that the current wording could be used to quell dissent, such as in Geauga County, where Probate Judge Tim Grendell has been at odds with the group “Protect Geauga Parks.”

“When you think about it in context – because Geauga County, where Judge Grendell is judge, has had several controversies with regard to its park up there -- ...  it could certainly be read to say, ‘Well, actually a Probate Court could go after someone who 'interferes with the park districts’ purposes.’”

Daniels says if that’s not the goal, “then that language really needs to be tightened in the statute. Because right now it’s unclear. It talks about the ability of the Probate Court to ‘impose duties or restrictions on a person or party who interferes with the park district’s purposes.’”

Daniels says he can see the ACLU getting involved if the language remains as it is, but he hopes lawmakers realize that the current wording could be used to quell dissent.

A spokeswoman for Judge Grendell says the new legislation simply codifies powers already granted to probate judges, which were affirmed by a 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling.

The full text of the legislation is below:

HC1793

H.B. 49 As Introduced

_______________________________ moved to amend as follows:

In line 29 of the title, after "1521.063," insert "1545.06,"        1

In line 351, after "1521.063," insert "1545.06,"                    2

Between lines 20494 and 20495, insert:                              3

"Sec. 1545.06. (A) Any park commissioner may be removed at          4

the discretion of the probate judge, either upon complaint filed        5

with such judge or upon his the judge's own motion. No such             6

removal shall be made without giving such commissioner not less         7

than ten days' notice and a full opportunity to be heard in his         8

the commissioner's own behalf in a public hearing. The order            9

removing such commissioner shall state the reasons therefor and        10

shall be entered upon the records of the probate court. In case of     11

such removal, or in case of other vacancy in the office of             12

commissioner, the vacancy shall be filled by the judge by              13

appointment for the unexpired term.                                    14

(B) A probate court may do any of the following with regard        15

to a park district created by an order of the court:                   16

(1)  Issue an order preventing interference with the court's     17

order creating the park district;                                      18

(2)  Enforce the court's order that created the park district;   19

(3)  Issue an order compelling compliance with this chapter;     20

 

(4) Investigate matters involving the park district, including the management of the park district, through a court hearing or through a special master commissioner appointed pursuant to section 2101.06 of the Revised Code;

(5) Impose duties or restrictions on a person or party who interferes with the park district's purposes as provided by this chapter or the court's order creating the park district;

(6) Tax the cost of proceedings, including special master commissioner investigation fees, as court costs to be assessed by the court in its discretion.

(C) Before taking any action authorized under division (B) of this section, the probate court shall give prior written notice to any person or party affected by the action. The court shall conduct a hearing on the matter if a hearing is requested in writing by such person or party. The probate court also may conduct a hearing on its own motion. If a hearing is scheduled, the court shall provide notice of the time and place of the hearing to all affected persons and parties. The court shall provide the notice not less than twenty-eight days prior to the hearing.

(D) The probate court may order that a person become a party to a proceeding concerning a park district if the person's presence as a party is necessary to enable the court to make a decision fairly and effectively in the proceeding. The probate court shall give such person notice of its intention to make the person a party. The court shall conduct a hearing prior to issuing the order if requested in writing by the person. The probate court also may conduct a hearing on its own motion. The court shall provide notice of the hearing in the manner prescribed in division

(C) of this section.

(E) The probate court may order that a party to a proceeding 51 concerning a park district is no longer a party if either of the 52

following applies:                                                     53

(1)      The person's presence is not necessary to enable the 54 court to make a decision fairly and effectively in the proceeding; 55

or                                                                     56

(2)      The court determines that the person should not be a 57

party to the proceeding for any other reason.                          58

(F) As used in this section, "party" means any person who is    59 the subject of a probate court proceeding or investigation, and     60 any other person specifically designated by the court."   61 In line 92445, after "1521.063," insert "1545.06,"   62

The motion was __________ agreed to.

SYNOPSIS

Probate court jurisdiction regarding park districts                63

R.C. 1545.06                                                      64

Authorizes a probate court to do all of the following with 65 regard to a park district created by an order of the court: 66

-- Issue an order preventing interference with the court's         67

order creating the park district;                                      68

-- Enforce the court's order that created the park district;       69

-- Issue an order compelling compliance with the laws              70

governing park districts;                                              71

-- Investigate matters involving the park district, including      72

 

the management of the park district;

-- Impose duties or restrictions on a person or party who interferes with the park district's purposes; and

-- Tax the cost of proceedings as court costs to be assessed by the court in its discretion.

Establishes procedures that the probate court must follow with regard to proceedings that govern any of the actions specified above.