The experience to drive results.
We have one of the premier public-sector teams in the country. Our attorneys provide legal services to some of the largest public entities and school districts in our footprint, including Cincinnati and Dayton, OH, Lexington and Louisville, KY, Indianapolis and Marion County, IN, the City of Los Angeles and various public agencies throughout the Southern California region. We also advise some of the smallest public entities and every size in between. Because of this broad-based experience, we are adept at navigating the multitude of scenarios that public-sector entities face, from zoning disputes to labor contracts, privacy laws, and municipal finance.
Our tailored, outcome-focused approach enables us to help our public-sector clients quickly and creatively resolve complex issues and implement solutions to achieve the most favorable results possible. Whether we’re reviewing labor contracts, counseling on student issues or providing training to councils, boards, and commissions, we share insights and collaborate with our clients from beginning to end. We also work shoulder to shoulder with community leaders in anticipating their needs and solving their most difficult issues.
Where we live, work and play, we do everything possible to make our communities better.
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How We Help Clients
Our government services team not only has experience advising political subdivisions on common areas of concern, such as eminent domain and code enforcement matters, but we also have experience assisting a political subdivision with their day-to-day operations. These services can entail anything from a basic contract review, to analyzing a public records request, to labor, real estate or tax law.
No matter the circumstance, we have seen the vast array of matters that a political subdivision encounters, and we are skilled at addressing each matter within the context of their business objectives. When appropriate, we’ll refer a complex matter to other attorneys within our full-service firm and collaborate with them to recommend the best legal approach. Our attorneys understand that running a local government is not always a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, and we are available to work through potential issues when you need us.
- Our team assisted in forming the Shared Resources Center, a regional council of governments (“COG”), for the provision of financial, payroll, and other administrative services to school districts in Ohio. Under Ohio law, a COG is a vehicle for school districts and other public entities to work cooperatively to share the costs of administration and services. We guided the Shared Resources Center through its formation process, its financing, and establishing various contracts with school districts and other public entities. The Shared Resources Center has enabled several school districts to operate more efficiently and save tax dollars.
- One of our partners serves as City Attorney for a Southeast Los Angeles County city, counseling on a broad range of matters, including: drafting ordinances, resolutions, agenda bills and contracts; advising City officials as to compliance with state laws pertaining to City administration, such as the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, and bidding requirements for public works projects; assisting with the analysis of contractor bids and the award of public works contracts; interpretation of zoning questions, modifications and disputes; and advising Planning Commissioners during City Planning Commission meetings and hearings.
We advise our public sector clients on all aspects of labor and employment law, working with them to develop proactive and cost-effective solutions to the issues that public entities face on a daily basis. We represent public entities, large and small, in connection with labor contracts and collective bargaining matters. We also handle issues related to ADA, FMLA, FLSA, discrimination, harassment, whistleblower laws, as well as unemployment or workers’ compensation, due process, statutory and common law claims.
- Collective bargaining
- ADA, FMLA, FLSA, discrimination, harassment, whistleblower claims
- Wrongful discharge
- Civil service hearings
- EEOC and state agency proceedings
- Handling grievances and arbitrations
- Discipline and discharge
- Workers’ compensation defense
- Unemployment compensation defense
- Due process claims
- Common law claims
- Statutory claims
- Consultation and training
- Anti-SLAPP motions
- Conflict of interest
- As general counsel for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, we defend the Sheriff’s Office against various employment discrimination and civil rights claims including Title VII, ADA, ADEA and USERRA claims. Our team also negotiates collective bargaining agreements with the Fraternal Order of Police that represents several hundred deputy sheriffs.
- We successfully represented a large California municipality and one of its council members against charges of wrongful termination and violation of First Amendment rights.
- We defended a California city, its personnel department, and finance director against six plaintiff claims of age and disability discrimination based on the claimant’s allegation that she was not selected for a position for which she had applied and was not reclassified as a full-time employee.
- We conducted an investigation on behalf of a California city into charges brought by a firefighter trainee alleging racial discrimination arising from ratings of unsatisfactory performance by teachers of the firefighters’ academy.
- Our team conducted an investigation on behalf of a California city after a female firefighter trainee brought claims alleging sex discrimination arising from ratings of unsatisfactory performance by the teachers of the firefighters’ academy.
- We defended a California public utility in claims brought by a former employee seeking more than $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Our team was brought into the lawsuit only six weeks before a jury trial was originally scheduled. After a three-week trial, the plaintiff rested their case, and our trial attorneys moved successfully for a nonsuit to dismiss the case based on the lack of evidence presented.
- Our team successfully prosecuted various conflict of interest cases on behalf of a Southern California municipality under the state’s conflict of interest statute, Government Code section 1090. The statute prohibits a government official from having a financial interest in any transaction involving the official’s public agency, and requires the disgorgement of monies and real estate title acquired as a result by either the official or the contracting party. We also pursued recovery under the state’s false claims statute. In total, we recovered more than $15 million in settlements involving law firms, engineering firms, construction firms, a waste hauler and other service providers, and also obtained the title to real property valued at more than $20 million in the aggregate. Our team worked closely with state legislators to extend the statute of limitations applicable to such matters from a one-year limitations period to a period of four years from the date of discovery of the alleged wrongdoing.
Our team has defended hundreds of zoning commission and board of zoning appeals decisions as well as defended many constitutional challenges to zoning ordinances. We have also counseled and negotiated on behalf of clients in a wide range of multi-million-dollar construction and real estate matters involving municipal, township and school-related projects. We are uniquely situated in that we represent, as general and special counsel, numerous cities and villages across our footprint in real estate litigation, inverse condemnation and eminent domain cases, including the successful management of over 100 eminent domain lawsuits in the last five years alone. While we stand ready to aggressively defend public entities in litigation, we are equally adept at guiding clients through the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process.
- Advice on project delivery methods and contract types, including lump sum, cost-plus fee, guaranteed maximum price, design-bid-build, design-build, construction management at-risk, construction management agency, and multi-prime procurement.
- Risk management/best practices counseling and training
- Claims and dispute resolution (including defect and schedule impact claims)
- Mechanics’ liens and payments disputes
- Mediation and arbitration (as advocates and neutrals)
- Insurance counseling and claims
- Surety bond counseling and claims
- An Ohio township recognized the need to properly plan and implemented a temporary moratorium on new development and redevelopment to effectively implement a new zoning district. When the moratorium was challenged, our team successfully defended the township against an injunction to stop the application of the temporary development moratorium. It was the first statutory township in Ohio to successfully implement a development moratorium.
- Our team assisted an Ohio city that owned hundreds of acres of land outside of its corporate limits but wanted to annex the property into its corporate limits. As a first step, we drafted the annexation petition and the ordinance authorizing the annexation. We also represented the city at the Board of County Commissioners hearing on the annexation petition. Ultimately, the board approved the petition, and the city was able to add the annexed property to their city area.
- An Ohio city sought to make certain roadway improvements, part of which involved the construction of a new road to support the development of a medical center. To move forward with this project, the city needed to acquire road rights of way and easements for the construction. We were able to assist the city in acquiring those rights so that the project could continue.
- An Ohio city partnered with the State to realign roadways to create a “gateway” for the city and to create a more efficient and safe traffic pattern. As part of that project, the city needed to acquire road rights of way and easements for the realigned roadway and expansions of right of way, including twelve property interests that had to be acquired through eminent domain. We represented the city and were successful in negotiating agreements that were financially favorable to the city so that the project could move forward and meet budget.
- We successfully advised a California municipality in negotiations with the developer of the largest revitalization project in the city’s history and a highly successful regional shopping center, valued in excess of $100 million. Our role in the project was to usher two simultaneous property sales through execution, examine conditions for development, clear transportation congestion obstacles, and develop the legal parameters of a highly creative excess-profit-sharing agreement between the developer and the city. The project generated a $5+ million payout to the city from the developer and an increase in annual sales tax revenue that exceeds $3 million per year.
- We redrafted a California client’s municipal code chapter containing ordinances that governed its public purchase and bidding system. Our team also supervised the process of overhauling and rewriting the public-bidding documents and construction contracts for one of the largest unified school districts in California.
- We were engaged by a city in Orange County, California, to assist and develop strategies to terminate the development of an airport by utilizing environmental conditions and laws as roadblocks. We also assisted the city in other strategic economic development projects.
- We represented a California county in negotiating and documenting a 10-year, $20 million lease of an entire two-story standalone office building containing 83,840 square feet of space, allowing the consolidation of several of the county’s social services departments.
- Our team assisted a Southeast Los Angeles County city in the reuse and redevelopment of a former cement pipe manufacturing property with soil contamination issues. We counseled the city in the marketing and sale of the redevelopment site to a private, regional shopping center developer with environmental clean-up requirements, land use entitlements, and restrictions in place.
- We successfully represented a city in Orange County, California, in the acquisition of property using eminent domain within a mobile home park adjacent to a road widening project. The case was heavily litigated, with right-to-take challenges, a CEQA challenge and staunch opposition, often without merit, from the property ownership group. Our team obtained prejudgment possession over multiple challenges to meet a tight funding compliance schedule and then settled the matter through innovative motion practice without the need for a trial.
Our extensive experience in all aspects of the procurement process gives our clients an uncommon advantage. We work with them on the “front end” to structure contracts in such a way that minimizes risks and significantly reduces the likelihood of disputes. Additionally, we help clients efficiently manage their procurement needs and assist with in-house audits and staff training sessions covering best practices for claims avoidance, project documentation, key contract issues, procurement policies and procedures and other legal issues faced by municipalities.
- Counseling on the public bidding and purchasing process
- “Front-end” review of projects to determine effective strategies
- Advising clients on bid review and award
- Prosecuting bid contests
- Contract negotiation, preparation and review
- Preparation of standardized purchase order forms for routine transactions
- Insurance review and counseling
- In-house audits and staff training sessions on best practices for claims avoidance, project documentation, key contract issues, procurement policies and procedures and other legal issues faced by municipalities.
- Our attorneys successfully defended a breach of contract claim involving a disposition and development agreement relating to the construction of a new dealership showroom. The property owner claimed that the California public entity failed to timely process his construction permits, which led to the loss of the dealer franchise. The public entity prevailed on a summary judgment motion and also prevailed on appeal. The owner-dealer sought recovery of $10 million. The public entity prevailed on a cross-complaint seeking $1 million in unpaid loan proceeds.
Likely all political subdivisions throughout the country have faced a difficult code enforcement case where the property owner is not compliant. Our attorneys have experience working through these cases from beginning to end to ensure that the goals of the code are realized. In appropriate cases, costs of nuisance abatement, including legal fees, can be recouped as an assessment against the nuisance property.
Our government services team has attorneys on hand who can provide experienced guidance on our clients’ legal and ethical responsibilities under various privacy laws, including those required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, USA Patriot Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the FTC’s Identity Theft Red Flag Rules. We provide training and counsel government entities on how to strengthen their privacy and data management practices. We use a coordinated approach to risk assessments and the development of compliance solutions for the public sector, often working with clients in a preemptive nature to minimize both the fiscal and reputational impact of potential data breaches, ransomware, and other forms of cyber theft.
- The development and formulation of website security and privacy statements and disclosures
- Advertising and marketing issues, including those raised by targeted behavioral advertising
- Issues concerning identity theft, including medical identity theft
- Issues raised by federal computer security and trade secret statutes
- Record retention policies and practices
- Formulating Identity Theft Red Flag Programs and procedures
- Employment information confidentiality
- Education information privacy
- Reviewing and drafting third party service provider confidentiality agreements
- Planning for and responding to data security breaches throughout the country
- HIPAA compliant business associate agreements and data use agreements
- HIPAA privacy and security policies and procedure
We assist with planning, drafting of forms, legislation, resolutions, and ordinances, investigations, prosecution of violations, and defense of claims, whether in litigation or in the administrative process. We also offer routine advice and guidance before, during, and after the process, in several substantive areas:
- Liquor licensing
- Adult cabaret regulations
- Environmental conservation legislation
- Government relations and lobbying
- Regulatory sandboxes
- Tax-increment financing
- Zoning classifications
- Economic development initiatives
- Cooperative purchasing agreements
- Charter schools
- Energy efficiency incentives (ePADs)
- The City of Powell had one of the lowest income tax rates in all of Ohio at just 0.75%. When the city decided to pursue a campaign to restructure the rate, we were able to help the city navigate the legal requirements and challenges to put the tax restructuring measure on the ballot for voters to approve. Our team helped the city navigate all necessary processes and procedures to raise their tax rate to a level that will sustain the city moving forward. This restructured tax provisions has led to an increase in the city’s annual revenue – by close to $8 million – and has allowed the city to further focus on providing better resident services, infrastructure improvements, and improved quality of life.
Our team has a wealth of experience navigating eminent domain issues. We draft the necessary documentation for the acquisition, negotiate with property owners and their counsel, and even take court action to fulfill acquisitions when necessary. We understand that these matters can cause tension within a community, and we have experience navigating those issues to achieve the best results.
- As special counsel for the State of Ohio for one of its departments, we successfully represented the State in over 50 eminent domain actions involving the alleged flooding of farmlands. The litigation originated from the modification of a spillway on the western border of a major lake. After unsuccessful settlement negotiations and an appropriation trial, we were then retained as special counsel. Taking lead on the continuing litigation, our team successfully navigated the department through the litigation and successful negotiations.
We work with municipal, township, and county governments to help them realize their economic development goals. Our team recognizes that economic development requires a multifaceted approach, from drafting and administering land use regulations that facilitate desired development to annexing property, and drafting development and incentive agreements that further the client’s goals.
- An Ohio township sought to partake in a large economic development project on approximately 65 acres of real estate. We assisted these local governments in their development of a mixed-use commercial project. This economic development project made the township more competitive with other political subdivisions by bringing in more than $300 million in private investment funds, creating an estimated 3,200 jobs during the construction phase of the project, and creating an estimated 4,500 permanent jobs for the area.
- An Ohio city sought to develop a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that contained office, residential and retail features. The development, along a major river, includes an entertainment, dining, retail and office destination with riverfront parks, residential options, access to water and trail ways and a pedestrian bridge connecting two distinct, upscale areas. We have assisted the city with this ever-developing project by advising on all legal matters along the way including necessary real estate acquisitions and construction documents. Many features of this overall project have been completed, but the project development continues to grow.
- An Ohio city wanted to create a large space for the community highlighting natural features and encompassing both sides of a major river. One side was envisioned as a venue for public events including features such as a greenspace and an interactive bouldering play area. The other side was envisioned as a location to display the riverside and to make connections to the water and pedestrian trails. Our team has assisted throughout this large project by advising the city on all necessary real estate acquisitions and construction documents.
- In developing a plan for a major park, an Ohio city sought to build a pedestrian bridge across a river to connect two budding areas of the metro area. The project faced several challenges along the way, but we were able to assist the city with addressing all legal matters that the project presented.
Our attorneys have deep subject-matter expertise with respect to Sunshine Law compliance, including both federal public records laws and their “blue sky” counterparts. We provide annual training on our clients’ public records and open meetings obligations. We also routinely assist clients in responding to subpoenas and information requests, helping ensure ensure full compliance with federal and state law. We work closely with our public-sector clients to avoid other constitutional challenges as well, including those involving the First Amendment, Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, and searches and seizures.
Our government services team regularly provides trainings to various departments of a political subdivision. For example, we provide new council member training that covers everything from basic matters, such as how the political subdivision works, to the more complex issues like governmental immunity. Our team also provides training to police, fire and sheriff’s departments, and special forces regarding labor and employment issues, criminal procedures and constitutional rights.
Land Use & Zoning Conference
We hosted close to 100 local government clients and private developers for the Ohio Land Use & Zoning Conference. Check out the image gallery below.
Our latest thinking on legal issues impacting the public sector.
February 20, 2024
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Publication: The School Superintendents Association (AASA)
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In the News:Conversation With: Jason Villalba
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