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Attorney General's Opinion On Transportation Improvement Districts Surprises Some

Tony Dejak
Mike DeWine speaks at the Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, in Mansfield, Ohio.

Ohio's Attorney General says county commissioners can't serve on the local transportation improvement district boards. Now, Hamilton County commissioners are trying to figure out what to do next.

Transportation improvement districts (TIDs) in Ohio coordinate and finance programs involving local governments. Attorney General Mike DeWine's office wrote in an opinion on October 19 that since county commissions often help fund TIDs, and appoint representative members, there is a conflict of interest.

Hamilton County Engineer Ted Hubbard says the opinion came as a surprise. "The way we've conducted business in the TID has been open and notorious," he says. "We've always believed the form of TID we have is legitimate and valid."

Commission President Todd Portune says the board canceled its October meeting and needs to decide what to do before the scheduled November meeting. "Why the attorney general chose to render this opinion now, we don't know. It is in conflict with prosecutors' opinions all over the state for the past 22 years," he says.

Portune wonders if the opinion will have unintended consequences. "For example, if a commissioner cannot serve on a TID, can that commissioner serve on a solid waste district or serve on any other established board or commission? Does this opinion have that kind of long reach?"

Commissioners will ask the Hamilton County prosecutor and the TID's legal counsel for an opinion on the attorney general's opinion.

Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.