COLUMBUS -- In an opinion released today, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says only Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason can represent Cuyahoga County in lawsuits.
On April 1, Mason asked DeWine for an opinion as to who should represent the county.
Mason and new Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald have been politely at odds since February over the powers and duties of the county law director, defined in the new county charter as the "legal adviser to and representative of the County Executive and County Council."
Mason said only his office can represent the county in court, advise boards and commissions, and hire an outside attorney. It was FitzGerald's opinion that Mason should handle criminal matters and let the law director be "the voice of the county in civil matters."
In advance, both Mason and FitzGerald said they would abide by whatever DeWine decided.
In January, FitzGerald first appointed Cleveland Municipal Court Magistrate Gregory Clifford as law director but DeWine ruled in February that Clifford was not qualified because he had not represented municipalities.
Then FitzGerald appointed Bay Village's Majeed Makhlouf, 34, a partner in the Cleveland office of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, who has represented Beachwood, Independence, Strongsville and Cleveland municipal schools.
In today's 24-page opinion, DeWine also upheld Mason's assertion that the Cuyahoga County council and the Cuyahoga County law director cannot hire their own attorney.
It also rules out the possibility that council members and the law director can hire their own outside attorney.