About the City Attorney's Office

Overview of the structure of Columbus City Government

Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution authorizes the creation of municipal corporations in Ohio and defines their classifications, powers and limitations. Pursuant to section one of that Article, Columbus, Ohio is a municipal corporation classified as a city because its population is 5,000 or more, presently in excess of 750,000 persons. Pursuant to section three, Columbus has “…authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within...[its limits]…such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.” And pursuant to section seven, in 1914 Columbus adopted (and since has amended) a charter for its government and now exercises, subject to section three, all powers of local self-government.

Pursuant to the Charter of the City of Columbus, the legislative power of city government is held by a seven-member city council, with each member being elected at-large, three at one odd-numbered election and four at the next odd-numbered election. A council member’s term is four years.

The executive and administrative power of city government is vested in the mayor, an elected position with a four-year term, and in “…directors of departments and other administrative officers and boards provided for...[in the charter and ordinances of the City].” Electors also choose a City Auditor for a four-year term and a City Attorney for a four-term.

Should you be looking for more information about the government of the City of Columbus, please visit http://www.columbus.gov/. Should you access that site and go to City Auditor Hugh Dorrian’s website, significant information about the financial status of the City, as well as other important information about the City may be found by examining the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) link.

How The Columbus City Attorney’s Office Is Organized

The present City Attorney is Richard C. Pfeiffer, Jr., originally appointed in January 2003 to fill a vacancy. In November 2003 he was elected to finish the unexpired term. Subsequently, he has been re-elected three times (in 2005, 2009, and 2013), with his present term ending December 31, 2017. Having served more than 12 years, he is currently the second longest serving City Attorney in Columbus history.

On the average, the office employs 125 full-time persons (60 of whom are attorneys), and 37 part-time persons. The office’s budget is in excess of fourteen million dollars a year.

The office is organized into various divisions housed in various locations.

The Administration Section

This section, led by Chief of Staff Bill R. Hedrick, is responsible for the office’s Human Resources, payroll, accounting, technology and general support functions.

The Civil Division

The Civil Division has a General Counsel Section, a Litigation Section, and a Labor and Employment Section. This Division is loacted at 77 North Front Street.

The General Counsel Section is headed up by the office’s Chief Counsel, Joshua T. Cox, and functions in the traditional general counsel role, offering opinions, reviewing contracts and proposed legislation as to form, and advising the various departments of city government as requested by those departments.

The Litigation Section, headed up by Section Chief Attorney Tim Mangan, functions mainly to defend the City when it gets sued. This section’s attorneys appear with some frequency in both the federal and state trial courts.

The Labor and Employment Section, headed up by Section Chief Attorney Pamela Gordon, functions as an employer’s labor lawyer, representing the City in labor arbitrations and advising the various departments as to employment law issues.

The Real Estate Division

The City often acquires interests in real property for public utilities or public service requirements. This Division, lead by Chief Real Estate Attorney, David E. Peterson, is located at 77 North Front Street.

The Claims Division

Located at 77 North Front Street and lead by Section Chief Attorney Nancy L. Weidman, this Division is responsible for collecting monies owed the city and evaluating claims made against the city.

The Prosecutor Division

The City Attorney’s office prosecutes criminal misdemeanor offenses that occur within the City of Columbus, the unincorporated townships of Franklin County, and under contract, within the territorial limits of several suburban communities within Franklin County. This prosecution occurs in the Franklin County Municipal Court, 375 South High Street, so that is where this division, lead by Chief Prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish, and Chief of Staff Bill R. Hedrick, is also actively involved.

There are 15 judges of the Franklin County Municipal Court, and each courtroom must be staffed by our trial attorneys. On a normal day when a judge is holding court, each prosecutor is responsible for the prosecution of upwards of fifty cases.

In addition, this Division is responsible for arraignments in two traffic courts which on a daily basis arraign approximately 100 persons per courtroom. These traffic arraignments are conducted by third year law students under the supervision of the Director of the Prosecutor’s Appellate Unit, Attorney Melanie Tobias.

The Prosecutor Division has four attorneys specifically assigned to the prosecution of problematic domestic violence cases. To assist in the protection of victims of domestic violence, the office has a Domestic Violence/Stalking Unit lead by Attorney Anne Murray whose goal it is to assist and protect victims of domestic violence and stalking.

The Prosecution Resources Unit, through its intake and mediation sections, is responsible for receiving and evaluating citizen complaints to determine whether an individual should be charged with a criminal offense or whether mediation of a dispute is more appropriate. Attorney Robert Tobias supervises these programs, including a program that attempts to resolve short of prosecution those situations where a check is returned for insufficient or no funds.

Police Legal Advisor

This two-attorney office is housed in the headquarters of the Division of Police located at 120 Marconi Boulevard. Section Chief Attorney Jeff Furbee is the Police Legal Advisor. As the name implies, this office provides 24/7/365 advice to the nearly 1,800 members of the Division of Police. This unit provides training sessions and updates on topics of daily importance to police officers.

Zone Initiative Team

This is a team of attorneys and others assembled from several divisions whose goal it is to use civil nuisance abatement actions to rid the City of dilapidated buildings. The team addresses issues from the neighborhood perspective, and focuses on what is popularly referred to as quality of life issues.