The Transportation Section serves as legal counsel to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC). The Section represents ODOT in litigation and administrative matters that further ODOT’s mission to build and maintain a safe and efficient system of State highways. Section attorneys appear on behalf of ODOT in all state and federal courts in Ohio (except the Ohio Court of Claims). The Section also provides advice to ORDC, usually through program incentives and loans.
Eminent Domain. Eminent domain is the right of the government to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation. It is a right recognized under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution. Eminent domain is used in a multitude of areas, including parks, schools, prisons and roads. The AGO Transportation Section’s eminent domain work involves the acquisition of real estate highway construction projects.
ODOT’s process begins with planning and public meetings. Once an alignment is selected, surveyors, title agents, appraisers, and negotiators all get involved to hopefully acquire the property voluntarily. However, if a property owner and ODOT cannot agree on the value to be paid for the property taken, Ohio Revised Code Chapter 163 sets forth a process that entails the filing of a lawsuit and selection of a jury to determine the value to be paid for the property taken.
Bid Disputes. The Section represents ODOT in dispute with contractors. While ODOT is the department that oversees highways and related transportation facilities, it relies upon private businesses to assist in its functions. Whether building a road, maintaining the right of way or repairing bridges, ODOT offers numerous contracts up for public bid. These contracts are subject to various rules and regulations, but there can be only one successful bidder. Other bidders may dispute ODOT’s selection and may file a lawsuit against ODOT. The AGO defends ODOT on such claims.
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. The DBE program is a federal program operating under the guidance of the United States Department of Transportation. The overall goal of the DBE program is to ensure that firms owned and controlled by minorities, women, and other socially and economically disadvantaged persons have the opportunity to grow and become self-sufficient in order to create a level playing field on which they can compete fairly for contracts and subcontracts in the transportation industry.
Businesses that participate in the DBE Program are granted protections of due process during the application, approval, and renewal process. A denial of DBE status involves an administrative hearing in which the section represents ODOT’s interests.
Debarments. ODOT expects that any business that is done for the public be done at the highest ethical and professional standards. Sometimes, those standards are not kept. In order to protect the integrity of work done for the public, businesses and business owners who are not in keeping with expectations may be subject to the sanction of being barred from doing business with ODOT. In a debarment hearing, the AGO will seek debarment on behalf of ODOT.
Outdoor Advertising Devices. ODOT regulates outdoor advertising devices near highways through its Advertising Device Control Program and in accordance with the federal Highway Beautification Act. When an application or renewal for an outdoor advertising device permit is denied, a Section attorney may be called upon to represent ODOT in a subsequent administrative hearing.
Encroachments. If ODOT believes there are encroachments or other obstacles to providing a safe network of highways, they will call upon the Section to protect the State’s rights through judicial means.