The Delaware County commissioners are preparing to meet with other county elected officials to review the county's contract system and contracts held by the county are valid.

The Delaware County commissioners are preparing to meet with other county elected officials to review the county's contract system and contracts held by the county are valid.

During meetings last week, the county prosecutor's office told the commissioners a contract had been discovered that was void because it lacked a certificate required under Ohio law.

Assistant county prosecutor Aric Hochstettler said his office had changed procedures to eliminate the problem going forward.

"The previous way we dealt with these is we made sure all the forms were attached to contracts," Hochstettler said. "We approve contracts as to form. If the documents were all there, not that they were signed, we would approve it if they were all there. Whoever was presenting the contract would (later) make sure all the signatures were obtained.

"Now we've changed that around, so we require a signed form before we sign off as approved. There is that added protection."

Interim county administrator Debbie Martin said various county directors have been discussing the issue and the heads of each office will decide how to address it.

"The commissioners are going to be discussing this with other officeholders," Martin said. "After we speak with the other elected officials, we'll have to see where we are."

Commissioner Todd Hanks said in 43 instances, he questioned whether contracts existed and should be paid.

Hochstettler said payments are made in many cases without contracts and no determination could be made without a full review of each contract in question.

"Looking at the list, I can see two contracts that I personally reviewed that are OK," Hochstettler said. "Just by looking at that document, you have not reviewed any of the terms. There's no way to tell whether they are valid without reviewing the terms of the entire contract."

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said contracts should be paid if services had been rendered.

Hochstettler said the commissioners had the option to pay for services as a moral obligation rather than a legal obligation.

"There are two questions: Is this a valid contract? If the answer is no, do we have to pay it? No. Should we pay it? That's a different question."

"I feel strongly we have the obligation to make the payments," Thompson said. "Wheth-er the contract is deemed valid or invalid will be a legal issue the prosecutor's office will have to look at. I don't see it negating our financial responsibility."

"I would agree," Hochstettler said. "I have not personally witnessed a widespread problem with the documents. Of the contracts I've personally reviewed, I'm not aware of any missing documentation. I feel it's safe to assume that the documentation is there for any contract that is on your list. Until I have something showing it's not there, the presumption would be that it was done properly."

Hochstettler said it would be a mistake to fail to pay a contract unless commissioners were sure it should not be paid.

"If services have been rendered you can recognize a moral obligation to pay ..." Hochstettler said. "That is always a fallback position. Before I have a contract in front of me that I can look at and see it is missing documents that would void it, I'm not willing to recommend you forgo payments unless we can verify it. "

The main difficulty in a comprehensive review is that the county system has no easy way of identifying all existing contracts, Hochstettler said.

"The problem is going to be identifying active contracts, coming up with a good system of identifying active contracts themselves," Hochstettler said. "Once we're able to identify them, locating them should not be a problem. We have no idea how many might be out there. There is no good way to identify them."