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The primary election is over. Except for the Presidential campaign, some of you may not have known there were elections. Let’s be honest. Many of us realized for the first time at the poll that we had LOTS of decisions to make. For those of us who voted a partisan ballot, whether Democrat or Republican, we voted for several offices. So what are these offices we are electing? At the risk of trying to “outshine” my high school government teacher, I want to refresh your memory of the positions for which we will vote again in November. As most readers know, I work in government. But I realize that many people do not regularly interact with government other than paying taxes. So the goal of this article is to jog your memory of what each position does. Every two years we elect a State Representative. This person will represent you in the Ohio General Assembly. Of course, this is our government in Columbus. In short, they make Ohio laws. Income taxes, gun legislation, rules about hydraulic fracturing, and most other topics are decided by these folks. This year we vote on this important position as well as for State Senators. At the county level, we will elect two County Commissioners, the Sheriff, Recorder, Treasurer, Prosecutor, and Clerk of Courts this year. The Sheriff enforces the law and investigates crimes in unincorporated areas (townships). The Prosecutor is supposed to prosecute crimes and represent the county in court in civil matters. So what do the other positions do? The County Commissioners are responsible for the overall operation of the county and, more importantly, the county budget and spending. The Treasurer collects and invests county money. The Clerk of Courts maintains all court files and accepts incoming documents in court cases. And the Recorder records documents such as deeds and maintains previously recorded documents. Aside from Sheriff and Prosecutor, the others may seem “ho hum.” That is probably a fair assessment. But consider how these positions might be important. If you buy a house, do you want an accurate record that you own it? A responsible County Recorder is in charge of this. If you are found “not guilty” of a crime, would you like the official records to reflect this? The Clerk of Courts is in charge of this. Do you want your tax dollars to be spent responsibly? The County Commissioners are charged with doing so. These positions seem more relevant when we consider how they might affect our own lives. At the risk of repeating from prior columns, these are the reasons that make voting important. Whether you voted in the primary or not, please exercise your right to vote in the November election. Obviously the President of the United States is important and your vote matters. But the state and county positions also matter. I encourage everyone to look at each candidate on the ballot. Will they make the decisions that YOU want them to make? If so, they deserve your vote. And if they do not, find the person who will make decisions like you. After all, it is our money and our government.

This column does not seek to provide legal advice.  Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers.  This column is for education and entertainment only.  The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.


Many friends and neighbors are talking about drilling leases.  I have had several clients bring them to me and have had dozens of people ask in general terms what they should say.  My best advice is to get an attorney and ask him or her to review your lease.  Even before you speak to an attorney, however, here are some things to keep in mind before you sell any rights to your property.

You own your property and are not required to sell any part of it.  That makes EVERYTHING negotiable.  You may negotiate initial price, royalties, quantity of land, and everything else.  One of the best ways to put yourself in a good negotiating position is to speak with your neighbors and negotiate as a group.

Make sure you are only selling the rights to oil and gas unless you intend otherwise. If an energy company has approached you about drilling for oil and gas, there is a no reason to give them the right to anything else.  We cannot know today what might be valuable in 20 years, but do not sell it!

Every lease should protect the landowner from any and every activity associated with drilling or their equipment.  This includes not only fixing problems with water and livestock, but should cover injury and property damage.

Keep in mind that the terms of a lease are only those items written within a lease.  A separate letter or a person’s promise are likely not legally binding.  If there is a disparity in what you were told and the language that shows up in the lease, there is a problem.

Finally, before you sign make sure you understand what you are giving up.  Most of the standard leases that I have seen actually restrict how you may use your property.  Furthermore, they are designed to operate very long term and are nearly impossible for landowners to cancel.  Once an agreement like this is signed, the landowner is stuck.  Therefore, getting the terms you want before signing is critical.

In general, many of us believe the new drilling interest in Ohio is great and is a revenue opportunity for land owners.  Make sure you are clear on what you are giving and what you are receiving.  Do not be afraid to negotiate with the company because they are big.  If they did not want the right to use your land, you would not have received the initial contact.

This column does not seek to provide legal advice.  Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers.  This column is for education and entertainment only.  The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.


Since it is Christmas, we are shopping.  For most of us, that also means we do not have much money and so we shop with credit cards.  Some stores offer “zero interest” on a purchase or on a credit card.  But be cautious!  Read the fine print and get all of the details.
I had a client recently who made a purchase with one year “same as cash.”  About ten months into the arrangement, the company actually changed the billing statements.  The date the money was due was listed, but not clearly identified.  At the end of the year, the client got a letter saying that $700 was due for interest.  When we looked back at prior statements, the very tiny print listed the due date.  However the “amount due” in big bold letters said there was no money due.  So read every statement very carefully, including the back of the statement and any small print.  Should you find yourself at odds with a credit card company or store, remember the basics.  Be nice.  Although you are angry, screaming at people actually does not make them more likely to do what you want.  At most businesses, there is a customer service department and then a customer service supervisor.  I usually ask for a supervisor early in the conversation.  If you calmly explain your concerns, they will often perform your request.
For those shopping with coupons at the last minute or at “after Christmas” sales, I also caution you to read the fine print.  Several department stores have additional discounts only if you use their credit card.  Check your receipt immediately to see if you received proper discounts.  Remember, you can use the store’s credit card to get the discount then immediately pay off the balance.  This is a perfectly legal way to “beat the system.”
I am pleased to say that this column is celebrating its one year anniversary.  Many thanks to our editor for her patience.  I look at deadlines as “guidelines” and she takes them more seriously.  Based on the feedback, however, it seems most of you are enjoying the subject of law and government.  We appreciate the readers and advertisers that make it possible.
I wish all of our readers a beautiful Christmas and healthy New Year.  The past year has been eventful, to say the least.  I am grateful to everyone who has helped me in the establishment of my own business and in my recent endeavor to serve the citizens of Portage County.  Besides my Villager “family,” I am grateful to my family and my friends.  Real friends are the ones that love you when your column is great and even when it is not your best work.  Real friends love you whether you win or lose an election.  Real friends help you put up Christmas decorations to get ready for your Christmas party.  So to Mattie, Mom, Dad, Jamie, Joe, David, Caryl, Sam, Sammy, Michelle R, Barb, John, Michael, Carlie, Tom, Michelle Z, Chris, and Heidi – I love you guys.  Merry Christmas!

This column does not seek to provide legal advice.  Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers.  This column is for education and entertainment only.  The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.

A friend recently had a fire at her home.  Fortunately, no one was injured.  It did cause lots of damage and has left our circle of friends all pitching in to untangle an insurance claim.  Few things in my legal career have been as frustrating as insurance claims.  The following should help if you ever have a claim.

1. The best place to start in avoiding problems is choosing the right agent.  When you shop for insurance, ask the agent about the claims process.  How long does it usually take to get back to you?  Ask details.  How much do I have to do myself if there is a fire or crash?  Will the company help me find the appropriate repair people if I want help?  Will the agent be involved at all?  An agent’s answers to these questions should give you an idea of their real knowledge and cooperative attitude.  If they do not know any of these answers – find someone more seasoned.  I always recommend someone local so they are near if you have a problem.

2.Read your insurance policy BEFORE you have a claim. This applies to your homeowner’s (or renter’s) insurance as well as auto.  Read the policy and ask the agent or company any questions you have in advance.  Then, put the policy somewhere  you will be able to find it.  The last thing you want is to have the insurance company deny your claim and have no idea how to verify what they say about your policy.

3.If you have an accident, fire or other loss and make an insurance claim, your claim will be assigned to an adjuster.  This adjuster works for the insurance company.  Remember, the less they pay you for your claim, the more money the company makes.  The adjuster generally does not have the final word on the value of your claim.  You can, and should, negotiate with them.  Be prepared to give them facts, not opinions.  “That does not seem fair” is not a statement that will interest most adjusters.  However, saying, “I have a receipt for the new lawnmower that was lost in my garage fire” will be helpful.

4.If you experience property damage that will require re-construction, I highly recommend working with a contractor who has previously worked with insurance companies.  This person may consider clean up or construction details that you may not.  Furthermore, they will likely be able to communicate effectively with the insurance company.

5.Despite some hassles along the way, most people get an appropriate amount of money to cover their insured loss.  If this does not happen, seek the advice of an attorney as a last resort.

This column does not seek to provide legal advice.  Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers.  This column is for education and entertainment only.  The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.

Since the election season has just passed, more attention than usual may be focused upon our government.   In Ohio, our state and local governments are an “open book” and the business of each governmental board is open to the public.  You may have heard references to the “sunshine laws.”  This generally refers to the statutory requirements that government be open to the public.  We have previously examined the right to review a public record.

It is also important to keep in mind that governmental boards may only transact business while in open, public session.  Minutes from these meetings are also available to the public.  Ohio law provides for executive session, a session closed to the public, in limited circumstances.  However, government boards may only vote and make decisions while in public session.

For each governmental board – whether state, county, township, or a municipality, the entity must meet at a regularly scheduled time and place or give written public notice of a special meeting.  These meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend.

So why is this important?  If you are interested in what your city council is doing, show up at the meeting.  If you have concerns about county government, attend a county commissioner meeting.  We could dedicate an entire column to listing all of the public boards – your school board, your township trustee meeting, and on and on.  But the legal requirements are essentially the same for each.  You have a right to be present and hear everything that is said at a government meeting.  I encourage each of you to show up and give your input.  If nothing else, just show up and let our leaders know you are there and that you care about the decisions they are making

This column does not seek to provide legal advice.  Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers.  This column is for education and entertainment only.  The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.