CLARION — As the opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc at both national and local levels, Clarion County officials earlier this week announced that the county is the latest Pennsylvania county to file suit against more than a dozen opioid pharmaceutical companies.
During their regular meeting on Tuesday, Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley unanimously approved for the county to file a suit against 14 pharmaceutical companies in an effort to recoup the costs associated with the ongoing opioid epidemic.
According to a press release issued following the meeting, the lawsuit aims to recover all costs associated with the opioid crisis that have been borne by county taxpayers, including healthcare, pharmaceutical care and other necessary services on behalf of affected residents.
“We don’t want to neglect this and end up getting nothing,” Tharan explained on Tuesday, noting that the county could also potentially receive a settlement from a similar suit the state Attorney General is considering. “We thought it would be in the best interest of Clarion County to do both.”
By way of representation, Clarion County retained the legal services of Robert Peirce & Associates of Pittsburgh and Marc J. Bern and Partners of New York as counsels. The law firms will retain 25 percent of any settlement recovery and bear all costs of litigation.
“The agreement with the attorneys provides that the suit will not cost the county anything,” the release states.
Both law firms are representing other counties in their own individual suits in addition to Clarion County.
In the release, attorney Robert Pierce states that the defendants have acknowledged that the drugs were addictive in the complaint, and “deliberately misled the public and the medical community by failing to disclose the addictive nature of the drugs.”
“The pharmaceutical companies have made literally billions of dollars,” he continued.
The commissioners added that the county has an obligation to help its citizens regardless of the costs.
“This is one of the few times that we will have an opportunity to recover taxpayer funded costs and expenses,” they said in the release.
During the public concerns portion of the Feb. 27 meeting, county residents Janice Horn and Catherine Holt spoke on behalf of Fair Districts PA, asking the commissioners to support a bill in Harrisburg calling for an independent commission to address the issue of redistricting in Pennsylvania.
Citing a lack of information regarding the bill, the commissioners took no action on the proposed resolution.
• The commissioners approved Resolution No. 4, authorizing county fire departments to place a burn ban into effect if necessary.
• A new vehicle lease was approved on behalf of the sheriff’s office with Clarion Ford for a 2017 AWD Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle with a new radio. The four-year lease includes annual payments of $10,344.97.
Payments are under budgetary control, and the county will have the option to purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease for $1.
• Just prior to her departure for another job opportunity on March 9w, a consulting agreement with Eileen Gruver of the Human Resources Department was approved. The agreement is effective Feb. 27 through Dec. 31 at a cost of $18.47 per hour as needed.
When asked if the county plans to replace Gruver and Human Resources director Trisha Douglas, who left the county in med-February, Tharan said things are in the works.
He explained that the county will most likely use interims to fill the vacant positions until permanent replacements can be hired.
“We’re moving forward,” he said. “Things aren’t just quite finalized yet.”
• A mowing contract was renewed with Jason Fyock for summer maintenance at Helen Furnace. The contract includes mowing, trimming and clean-up from May through October at a bi-weekly cost of $145.
• Resident Mike Vereb and Karina Libecco of the Holiday Inn Express were appointed to the Hotel Tax Committee.