Originally Published By: Katharine Hibbard (Logan Daily News)
Date: January 30, 2016
LOGAN — Hocking County Coroner Dave Cummin has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against several individuals in county positions after being cleared of a criminal coercion charge during a jury trial in November 2014.
The suit names the defendants as Hocking County Prosecutor Laina Fetherolf; Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North and employees David Valkinburg and Edwin Downs; and Hocking County Commissioners Sandy Ogle, Jeff Dickerson and Larry Dicken.
Per the court paperwork, the prosecutor and the individuals from the sheriff’s office are being sued for two counts of malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intimidation of a public official, loss of consortium, and declaratory judgment, while the commissioners are being sued for violation of the Sunshine Act.
A preliminary pretrial conference was held on Jan. 14, with all parties represented, and the defendants had until Jan. 28 to review and supplement their responses to the plaintiffs’ written discovery requests.
Each side has the opportunity to present reports from primary experts, with initial reports due no later than Oct. 1 of this year, and rebuttal experts produced no later than Nov. 15, with all discovery being completed by Dec. 15.
According to documentation from the court, the case will be available for final pretrial conference in May of 2017, or soon after depending on the calendar of the court.
All parties are to make every effort to arrange private mediation in approximately April of 2016, and are to report on the status of such arrangements no later than Feb. 15, at which time they will also report on the status of all currently outstanding motions.
On Jan. 15, payment in the amount of $9,837 was remitted to Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor, LLC, attorneys of Columbus, who are representing Valkinburg. On Friday, an additional $4,860 was remitted as a general invoice for services regarding Cummin v. Hocking County, a bill that was approved during the Thursday commissioners’ meeting.
On Jan. 26, Rick L. Brunner, of Brunner Quinn Law Firm in Columbus, provided notice of having served a subpoena for Captain Jerrod Alford to attend and give testimony at a deposition scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8. Defendant Edwin Downs will provide his deposition on Tuesday, March 8.
All other deposition dates are yet to be scheduled.
The case initially began when the prosecutor’s office filed a write of mandamus against Cummin, which was dismissed, but followed by a series of charges filed in Hocking County Municipal Court in July of 2015.
At that time Cummin was charged with five misdemeanors, including three counts of dereliction of duty; one count of obstructing official business; and one count of coercion. In September, four of the five charges were dismissed and Cummin faced a jury trail in November for the coercion charge, of which he was acquitted.
Cummin is seeking compensatory damages in the suit as to be determined by a jury trial from all defendants except the commissioners. He is seeking an injunction compelling the commissioners to comply with the provisions of the Ohio Open Meetings Act and for civil forfeiture of $500.
He also is seeking punitive damages against the HCSO defendants and Fetherolf in an amount to be determined at trial for all conduct found to be motivated by bad faith, malice, intent or reckless or callous indifference to Cummin’s rights; and for an award of costs, pre and post-judgment interest and his attorney’s and expert witness fees.