Legal issues over Oriana House continue
MARIETTA — The Supreme Court of Ohio has assigned a visiting judge, and Oriana House Inc. has responded to the city of Marietta’s complaint in Washington County Common Pleas Court.
Both actions took place this week following the filing last week by City Law Director Paul Bertram for an injunction against Oriana and The Washington County Women’s Home board of trustees.
The complaint asks the court to halt operations at 812 Third St., until Oriana House fulfills required zoning procedures by appearing before the city planning commission.
Oriana House is a private nonprofit which provides addiction services and administers drug courts across Ohio, including three operations already installed in Washington County with the drug court contract with Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi, a corrections facility in Reno and an outpatient recovery services office also in Reno through Rigel Recovery Services — an Oriana subsidiary.
According to Assignment Commissioner Angie Stevens, Retired Judge John Solovan, from Belmont County, was assigned to preside over the case Tuesday after local judges recused themselves from the civil action.
“The crux of the argument is whether we can operate there as a matter of right as outlined by zoning ordinance or whether as Mr. Bertram claims we’d have to go through planning commission under the requirements of continued special use,” explained Bernie Rochford, vice president of Oriana. “We’ve filed our response to the complaint and also filed a motion for summary judgment. Now it’s in the court’s hands to make a ruling.”
Marietta City Councilman Geoff Schenkel said clients are already living there despite both he and St. Mary Catholic School Principal Molly Frye being left with the impression that the nonprofit would wait to move in clients until the school could get up security cameras on their property across the alley from the home.
“I’ve participated in the dialogue between Oriana House, St. Mary and Hilles (Hughes) of the mental health board discussing the importance of the gospels, education and getting everyone together in the interest of being good neighbors,” said the councilman. “Those talks have been very promising so far but this is a setback, and in those talks at a minimum we’re going to need to rebuild trust.”
Rochford said no formal agreement was ever made by Oriana, and wouldn’t have been in the interests of the nonprofit.
“Otherwise the school could have just never put up cameras and stalled our ability to serve our clients,” he said. “We have all of our staff hired and our security measures up, and we have an early occupancy agreement with the board of the Woman’s Home, so we are now serving clients there.”