CANTON (WJER) (March 11, 2022) – Attorneys for the city of Dover and Dover Chemical argued their cases Thursday more than a year after the company first filed a complaint against the city.
Dover added a surcharge to Dover Chemical’s electric bill more than a year ago.
Dover Chemical sued, objecting to the rate increase and the city’s claim the company improperly received free services over the years.
In the Fifth District Court of Appeals, Dover Chemical attorney Timothy Rudd argued the company has actually overpaid.
“We’ve been charged more than we were legally allowed to be charged by Dover Light and Power both as to our rates and as to some other things,” Rudd said. “There’s the subsequent issue of the surcharge that is part of the lower court issues that we’re dealing with, and we’ve now paid into the court in escrow almost $500,000.”
Dover’s attorney John McLandrich said Dover Chemical’s overpayment complaint does not qualify as an “unjust enrichment” complaint against the city, as Rudd claimed.
“This litigation is just really just about two parties that aren’t getting along with respect to this economic relationship,” McLandrich said. “The litigation is an effort to bully the city on these topics.”
Attorneys debate defamation claim
The sides also argued Dover Chemical’s defamation claim. The question is: did city law director Doug O’Meara defame Dover Chemical by telling City Council he believes the company improperly received $2.2 million in free services over the years, or was he acting in his capacity as law director?
McLandrich said O’Meara was just doing his job and advising City Council at a public meeting.
“He’s clearly speaking as the law director,” McLandrich said, “and to suggest that he should be aware of apparent illegality and be subject to a claim if someone disagrees about it when he brings it to the attention of the city because no one asked him to bring it to the attention of the city is bad public policy, is not supported by law and I think is just frankly silly.”
Rudd argued O’Meara stepped outside his official duties.
“Law Director O’Meara initiated this entire process, initiated as part of what has revealed itself to be a very deep-seeded and long-going dispute between the mayor and the law director on many different venues and fields,” Rudd said. “He specifically went forward and made the completely unfounded factual allegation publicly.”
A common pleas court judge in July dismissed some aspects of the case but allowed others to continue. Dover appealed, and that’s how the case made it to the Fifth District Court.
Three appeals court judges are considering the arguments and will decide how the case will continue.