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Island plumbing dispute settled

Tom Jackson • Jun 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

A long-running dispute between the Erie County Health Department and a Plymouth contractor over unauthorized plumbing work on a Kelleys Island home may have finally come to an end.

Ohio's Sixth District appeals court in Toledo recently ruled the health department was justified in suspending the registration of Adams Quality Heating and Cooling, owned by Mark Adams. 

It also ruled that the heath department had been unreasonable in its requirements for Adams to get back into the department's good graces. The appeals court ordered Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette to tell the health department to accept Adams' registration.

The health department took action against Adams after it discovered that he had done plumbing work in 2010 on a Kelleys Island home owned by Martin Tremmel, then a top-ranking state health official. Adams did not obtain a permit for the work and was not registered to do work in Erie County.

The appeals court ruled that the health department could regulate plumbing in the county, but said that it could not compel Adams to complete a detailed drawing of his work from memory. It agreed with Binette that the requirement was unreasonable.

The appeals court also noted that Binette had failed to order the health department to accept Adams' registration and told him to do that.

Assistant prosecutor Jason Hinners said the county accepts the ruling and doesn't intend to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court court.

Ronald J. Mayle, one of Adams' attorneys, said he also does not intend to pursue further court action, provided that the health department obeys the order and registers Adams.

Mayle said his reading of the decision is that the health department can only require Adams to pay the same fees as any other contractor that registers with the health department, and can't impose additional fees or penalties.

Pete Schade, Erie County's health commissioner, said he can live with the ruling.

"I'm fine with it, other than the fact I don't know how much to charge him," Schade said. "We're going to have to work that out with the court system."

Schade said the entire fuss was a waste of taxpayer resources that could have been avoided if Tremmel had obtained a permit that he knew was required.

Mayle, asked if his client believes he was targeted because officials were angry with Tremmel, said the health department didn't come to Adams until several months after it learned about the work. When it was called to Adams' attention that he hadn't taken all of the necessary steps, he immediately submitted the necessary paperwork, Mayle said. 

“The court of appeals and trial court both said (the health department was) out of line in their demands on my guy. Both courts agreed what they were demanding of my guy was unreasonable," Mayle said.

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