Patriot Water Treatment LLC is a Lisbon, Ohio-based company that operates a water treatment facility in Warren.
Patriot Water offers an alternative to injection wells, which are currently the most commonly used method for returning waste water from fracking into the ground. Patriot pre-treats frack-water before sending it to the Warren wastewater treatment plant, which treats it and then dumps it into the Mahoning River.
In 2012 when hopes were high that the fracking industry was going to be huge in Trumbull County, it was believed by some that Warren might enjoy millions in revenue by treating Patriot’s water.
However, Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) stepped in and told Patriot they could not dump their water into Warren’s system; Patriot filed a lawsuit against ODNR in December 2012 alleging they hid or destroyed public records, and asked for $3.5 million in damages.
Around this time it became known that the City had been paying a part of Patriot’s legal fees, but once they reached $25,000 in payments City Council’s approval became required to spend more money. Mayor Franklin then began calling Council members asking for their support.
In an early 2013 executive session of Council, behind closed doors with no outsiders present, the Mayor asked Council to pay over $650,000 in Patriot legal bills owed to their lawyer, April Bott, of Columbus.
Most Council members were shocked, both by the size of the bill and the fact that not only had Council not been consulted in advance of the request, but by the fact that the Mayor informed them that there was no contract between Patriot and the City. Payment was “a moral obligation” according to Franklin.
Unaddressed was the question, “What was Doug’s moral obligation to Warren taxpayers?”
The legal bill was subsequently negotiated down to $234,272 which the City paid with Council approval. The Tribune ran an editorial on the payment on March 21, 2013 in which they said:
“The city should not enter the fray when private enterprise faces legal hurdles. In fact, we suspect Warren’s involvement is unprecedented here.”
“Perhaps this puts the matter into a better perspective: The $234,272.08 is enough to pay for several police officers for one year in a city struggling to control violent crime.”
“We have no money,” is Doug and Enzo’s response to every idea put to them. But we are broke, in part, because of decisions like this one.
Some people feel I only “second guess” the Mayor; that I have no solutions of my own. To those people I say that being a good Mayor is not just a matter of what you do, it is also a matter of what you wouldn’t do. And I would not have paid over $230,000 in legal bills owed by a private company, approved in a closed door meeting out of range of the press and public scrutiny.
I also invite those people who feel I am not offering solutions to visit my web site where I have posted many of my ideas. I will continue to add more over the coming weeks.
We can do better.
Written by Dennis Blank for Mayor