Federal Hocking Asks Commissioners To Declare Holzer Agreements Void

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The Athens County Commissioners are being asked to declare prior actions the board of commissioners took relating to Holzer Clinic to be void from the time they were adopted.

Tom McGuire, a member of the Federal Hocking School Board and an attorney, made the request Tuesday of the commissioners.

Federal Hocking is currently embroiled in a dispute with Holzer Health System on whether Holzer Clinic of Athens should be exempt from real estate taxes. The Ohio Department of Taxation initially ruled Holzer qualified for the exemption, but Federal Hocking challenged that and the matter is still pending. If declared tax exempt, Federal Hocking would lose about $100,000 in revenue annually. Other local entities, including the county, would lose lesser amounts.

McGuire had earlier asked the commissioners to rescind a cooperative agreement for Holzer Clinic adopted by the commissioners in 2011 as part of creating a public hospital agency, which relates to bond financing. He also had asked the commissioners to rescind a memorandum of understanding between the commissioners and Holzer Medical Center related to extending the center's charity care policy to Holzer Clinic of Athens.

McGuire repeated that request Tuesday, but added a request that they declare the 2011 and 2012 actions to be "void ad initio" — a legal term meaning that at no time did the two documents have legal validity.

McGuire indicated that he does not believe the commissioners would have approved the measures if they had known they could lead to the tax exemption request.

"One of the fundamental elements of a contract is there be a meeting of the minds of the parties," McGuire said, "and given that the Athens County Commissioners were not informed of one of the consequences of approval of those agreements, there could not have been a meeting of the minds."

McGuire presented the commissioners with an affidavit from former commissioner Mark Sullivan, who said he would not have voted for the agreements had he known they could lead to an application for tax exemption.

The commissioners decided to have County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn review McGuire's request. Commissioners Charlie Adkins and Chris Chmiel were not commissioners at the time the agreements were adopted.