Indiana Supreme Court turns down Cass County's appeal request

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Jul. 21—The Indiana Supreme Court has declined to consider an appeal related to a lawsuit that Cass County residents filed against county officials concerning the Waelz Sustainable Products zinc reclamation plant.

The state's Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on Monday not to take on the case, returning it to the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

The county is appealing a decision made by Miami County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Spahr on June 14 that the residents suing the county — Patricia Razer, Robert McDaniel, Leroy Miller and Melissa Harrison — will not have to put up a multi-million dollar bond against any harm to the county if Cass wins the suit.

Their suit alleges Cass County officials violated state open door laws when they worked out an economic development agreement with WSP.

The county's lawyers from the firm, Ice Miller in Indianapolis, petitioned the Supreme Court to take the suit and skip the Court of Appeals because the WSP plant would make an economic difference.

"An emergency exists requiring a speedy determination" so that the Supreme Court could accept control of the case, the motion states.

Attorney Jim Brugh of Logansport said, "The county was telling the Supreme Court that there was an emergency, and the Supreme Court didn't think so."

Brugh, along with attorney John Schwarz of Royal Center, is representing those suing the county.

The county's motion further states that the lawsuit slows down the issuance of bond issues through the county, and "If the bonds cannot be sold, the WSP Project will fail."

WSP's representative did not respond by press time if the WSP plant, close to being fully constructed and scheduled to start working in September, would not be finished due to the lawsuits.

The county's attorneys have also filed a motion with the Court of Appeals to speed up the appeal process because there's an emergency where Cass could lose the WSP plant.

"We filed a response and are waiting for a decision on that," Schwarz stated.

That appeal states there's no reason to expedite the appeal decision that there is in any other appeal case and that Spahr's decision was well-reasoned.

Spahr had ruled that the bond wasn't needed because WSP is not a public improvement like a school or water treatment plant, as Ice Miller attorneys maintained.

There's no date for when the Court of Appeals will decide on the speedy decision motion or the appeal itself.

According to Brugh and Schwarz, if the Court of Appeals does uphold Spahr's ruling that the WSP plant is not a public improvement and the citizens don't need to put up a bond against potential damages, then a trial will happen in Spahr's court on whether open door laws were violated by the county's actions.

The lawsuit and other lawsuits against Cass County officials were moved to courts in other counties to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The residents' suit alleges Cass County officials violated state open door laws when they worked out an economic development agreement [EDA] with WSP, and it is the consolidation of two previous suits.

It alleges that when the Cass WSP incentive committee met with WSP officials on Sept. 16, the incentive committee was made of elected and appointed Cass County officials, but the committee was never legally formed at any government meetings.

At an Aug. 21 Cass County Council meeting, the council directed that representatives of WSP and of the Cass County Citizens Coalition [CCCC] should negotiate the safety requirements.

The suit also claims that county officials intentionally limited how many residents could attend a Sept. 18 Cass County Council meeting during the pandemic by letting representatives of WSP and its construction firm in before the public to claim the open seats, limiting citizen participation and input.

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at or 574-732-5117

Twitter @JamesDWolfJr

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