Attorneys for two of the three parties who took part in a two-hour mediation hearing via telephone with the Supreme Court of Ohio Wednesday morning believe the session was positive.
"By rule of the Ohio Supreme Court the mediation proceedings are not open to the public, but I do think progress was made," said Marietta Law Director Roland Riggs III. "On Thursday evening, after the regular City Council meeting, there will be an executive session of the council of the whole to consider the mediation."
Riggs said where the mediation process goes from here will depend on what occurs during that session. The regular council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the community building at Lookout Park.
The mediation hearing was recommended by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer after the appeal of a May 8 4th District Court of Appeals ruling in a writ of mandamus lawsuit against Marietta's mayor and City Council.
The suit was filed in October 2006 by Marietta resident Butch Badgett, who said he wanted to force the city to make its court facilities accessible to people with disabilities.
Members of the local Citizens for Responsible Government group joined in as intervenors, seeking to protect a voter-approved ballot initiative aimed at prohibiting city funds from being used to build a new justice center.
The appellate court ordered the mayor and council to work with Badgett and Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar-Welch to provide adequate court facilities, which includes more than just accessibility standards. According to the judgment document, the current municipal court has public safety and security issues and lacks adequate restrooms, offices and courtroom space.
The appeals court also ruled the mayor and council would be responsible for Badgett's attorney's fees, but the city filed an objection to the $89,000 bill submitted by Columbus attorney Alexander Spater.
The CRG filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court in late June, saying Welch should have brought the mandamus action against the city instead of Badgett, a private citizen.
Marietta attorney Jim Huggins, representing Councilman Andy Thompson, R-at large, in the case, agreed with Riggs on the outcome of Wednesday's teleconference.
"Progress was made. I think that's a fair statement," Huggins said.
"I think some good progress was made," added Columbus attorney Mark McGinnis, counsel for the CRG members.
Councilman Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, was one of five council members who attended Wednesday's hearing.
"Some steps were taken, but we'll have to see what happens on Thursday," he said.