Pointed remarks aimed at tax refund bidBy Thomas
HAMILTON — A judge had pointed remarks Wednesday for an attorney
arguing that AK Steel Corp.’s chief executive officer should not pay
Middletown income tax for time spent working outside the city.
“They work through their office in Middletown,” Butler County
Common Pleas Judge Matthew Crehan said of AK CEO Richard Wardrop and
AK Chief Financial Officer James Wainscott. “That’s where things
Wednesday’s hearing featured the first open court arguments in
the case. Neither Wardrop nor Wainscott was in court.
Wardrop, a resident of unincorporated Clearcreek Township, wants
a $42,630 refund for 123 days working outside Middletown in 2000;
Wainscott, of Loveland, wants $2,527 for 51 days spent outside the
city that year.
Wardrop, also AK’s chairman and president, filed a complaint in
December 2001 in common pleas court against Middletown Income Tax
Review Board after it denied his bid for a refund.
Crehan told Middletown Law Director Les Landen and Cincinnati
attorney Samuel Scoggins, who represents Wardrop and Wainscott, that
he would make a ruling, but he did not say when.
Scoggins contended that one concern was whether Middletown
“exceeded (its) territorial limitations” by taxing non-residents for
work outside the city.
“The days the taxpayers (Wardrop and Wainscott) were outside the
city of Middletown, they were completely outside,” he said.
Landen called that argument “a smokescreen, a mirage.”
“Mr. Wardrop and Mr. Wainscott have business cards that show
their business address as 703 Curtis St., Middletown, Ohio,” Landen
It has been Middletown’s contention that what the two executives
earn is “a result” of their employment in Middletown. Landen and
other city officials have said that a decision against Middletown
may have implications for how the city collects revenue.
At one point, Crehan likened a CEO’s corporate headquarters to a
“workshop” with which “constant contact” is necessary, even while
“Whether he be there (at the corporate base), whether he be at
his residence, whether he be in China,” Crehan said.
In an apparent effort to illustrate his point, Crehan even asked
Scoggins where his law office was before he backed off, instead
talking about what he called a “hypothetical” lawyer. Scoggins works
for the firm of Frost, Brown, Todd in Cincinnati.
Scoggins declined to comment after the hearing. Landen sounded
pleased with Crehan’s remarks.
“I think what the judge is focused on is exactly the issue here,”
he said. “The issue is the base of employment.”
AK, the Middletown-area’s largest employer, has more than 11,000
employees in several Ohio cities, in Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania
and other states. About 4,000 AK employees work in Middletown.