PDT Staff Writer
Robert Gambill, a local real estate appraiser, has filed a lawsuit against Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman in the Ohio Supreme Court over county tax maps.
“This issue goes back years, when Clyde Willis first had the (tax) maps shot, they were available in the engineers office. You could go over and buy a copy of the map for a dollar, or something like that,” Gambill said. “We had asked at different times about purchasing the program or buy access to the program so that we could access the maps over the Internet or we could have it on our computers at the office.”
Gambill said Willis sold a copy of the aeriel maps to a number of people that had requested them.
“He told us he was selling the program to generate additional money so the maps could be updated. He said when new ones are available you will be able to buy an updated copy of the program,” Gambill said. “Around that time Clyde ended up leaving and Craig Opperman took over. Somewhere in that process, after the new maps were shot I kept asking, ‘when are we going to be able to get access to those new maps.’ They were made available in the engineers office, and we went for a period of months where I was told they told me an updated program would be available for purchase, but they were having problems making so they could record it to a disk.”
Gambill said a few months later he offered to pay for an IT person to come to the engineers office to fix the problem, he said that did not work out.
“They then started charging three dollars a page, which is a clear violation of public records law. The public records law is extremely clear on what they can charge for a copy of a public record,” Gambill said.
He said this is the second time he has filed this suit. He said the first time the suit was dismissed.
“This is a re-filing and was dismissed once before on procedural grounds. The suit is over an aerial photograph mapping system the engineer has. The big concern for the county engineer was that there is no funding for this program. It very well could be that if there is no funding out there, this program may just never get updated again, which would be a shame because it’s such a nice resource, which is why Mr. Gambill wants it,” said Mark Kuhn Scioto County Prosecutor. “From our standpoint we thought this case was settled. We’ve been corresponding with Mr. Gambill lawyers and quit getting responses from them because we were trying to provide information. This is raw data that he’s wanting, it’s not something where we can just copy a program and say here it is. It’s raw data so you have to have something to run it on. Earlier this spring we stopped getting responses from his lawyers on how to facilitate getting this to him. The next thing we know they filed in the supreme court. We’ve tried to provide it to him and have been at this for a couple of years now. We thought we had it settled then they decided they wanted to file suit so, we will litigate it in front of the supreme court again. There have been a lot of efforts over the last year to get this to him and do it where it’s not cost prohibitive.”
Gambill said the Ohio Association of Realtors has backed him in this suit.
“Practically every county in Ohio provides online for free. I once tried to compile a list of the counties and the list was 70 of the 88 counties,” Gambill said.
Gambill said Opperman’s reasoning for not putting the maps in the Internet was that he did not have any one to do it and that it would be too expensive.
“At the last mediation session he offered to sell me the program for $2,000 to settle the suit. I asked him why I had to pay $2,000, he said because I am going to have all of the names taken off the copy you get. There was no assurance I would ever get an update,” Gambill said. “It would have been cheaper for me to have paid the $2,000, by that time we had already taken it to the supreme court.”
Gambill said this suit is about a public records violation.
“I just want a resolution to this, I’m not looking for publicity for me, for them or for anybody. I just want him to follow the law,” Gambill said.
Gambill said he has worked with New Steel about options.
“When they came in the last time they were looking for some updated information. I had to tell them I could not give it to them easily on the computer. I told them I had to go over and pull the information up and they asked if I was kidding,” Gambill said.
Gambill said the goal of the suit is to get Opperman to charge what he’s supposed to charge.
“We are trying to get him to charge what he’s supposed to charge by Ohio law and to make the maps available to the public,” Gambill said. “That’s the goal of this whole thing.”
He said now that the lawsuit has been filed the next step is to wait for the county to file a response.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.