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Bribery claims boost legal expenses for Sycamore Township

Trustees hire outside firm to answer pleadings
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Posted at 11:28 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 11:54:13-04

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Sycamore Township is hiring a law firm to respond to the subpoena demands and record requests of Township Trustee Tom Weidman, who is pursuing a defamation lawsuit against a developer who accused him of soliciting bribes on Kenwood land deals a decade ago.

During a meeting of township trustees Tuesday night, Weidman briefly commented on his Warren County lawsuit and a rival complaint filed in Hamilton County last week by developer Christopher Hildebrant. Details of both complaints were revealed for the first time by the WCPO 9 I-Team Monday.

“There are some serious allegations made that are completely false. At the advice of my attorney, I’m not going to go into detail about these,” Weidman said. “I’m confident that I will prevail in both of those cases.”

Shortly after those comments, Trustees Tom James and Jim LaBarbara held an executive session to discuss Weidman’s lawsuit. They emerged with a motion to hire Surdyk Dowd & Turner, a Dayton-based law firm with a West Chester office, to respond to the Warren County case. The motion passed 2-1, Weidman voting against.

In an interview, James said it was necessary to hire an outside firm because Weidman’s attorney subpoenaed Township Law Director Deepak Desai and his law firm.

“That creates a conflict,” James said. “They could be called as fact witnesses.”

James said the cost of the outside firm will depend on how much time it takes to respond to the Warren County lawsuit and whether additional responses are required in the Hamilton County case filed by Hildebrant. He expects one attorney to work on the issue at $200 an hour, assisted by a paralegal with a $90 hourly rate.

Before taking the vote, James read a statement about the legal controversy, calling Weidman’s record request “catastrophically burdensome” because it requests “all documents and communications since 2011 that mention his name or relate to” Weidman.

James also assured Sycamore Township residents that the township has changed its real estate development practices and improved its accountability to the public.

“We will be monitoring these lawsuits for developments which might cause need for further investigation by the township as to past dealings,” he said. “And if any of the terrible allegations in the news turn out to be true, the township will aggressively pursue whatever remedies are available to it – including seeking recovery of any financial losses which may have occurred.”

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