Legal battle between Cincinnati and Duke Energy takes a turn

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An ongoing legal battle between the city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy has taken a turn.

Duke wants the city to pay for about $15 million for the relocation of utilities during streetcar work.

FOX19 obtained a memo that was the center of some controversy a few months ago. It was sent by Jonathan Brodhag in the city's law department to former city manager Milton Dohoney in March 2011.

The memo was previously confidential.

In the first paragraph, the city's attorney says, "Although the city is typically insulated from reimbursing relocation costs when it makes improvements to its public ways, the unique nature of the streetcar project as a governmentally owned transit system precludes the city's ability to avoid a responsibility for such costs."

Citing an Ohio Supreme Court suit from 1930 between the city and Cincinnati Bell for relocating utilities during another project, the city, at that time, was held responsible for reimbursement.

If that holds true, the city's streetcar project could inflate from $133 million to $148 million.

"The prior administration told the public that we were going to win this lawsuit, and they clearly knew, based on this legal memo, which as Supreme Court and case law behind it, that the city's not likely to win.  That means that the streetcar project's another $15 million in the red," said Mayor John Cranley of the memo.

On the city's streetcar website, they say they have $15 million in escrow pending the outcome of the Duke lawsuit.

Cranley says he always thought by putting that money in escrow was an admission the city administration would lost the suit.

FOX19 reached out to city spokesperson, Meg Olberding, who said Milton Dohoney wouldn't be commenting.

FOX19 also spoke with streetcar project manager, John Deatrick who said he couldn't comment on pending litigation. But, he did say he hadn't seen the memo.

Deatrick added that, pending Wednesday's vote on suspending the streetcar project, he has directed workers to get ready for the stoppage by securing work sites, and not digging new holes for tracks.

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