Judge Issues TRO Against Negley Business for Defying Stay-at-Home Order

LISBON, Ohio — A temporary restraining order was issued Wednesday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court against a Negley equestrian business for allegedly failing to obey the Stay Safe Ohio order imposed by state officials.

Judge Scott Washam imposed the order against David Treharne, doing business as Treharne Training Center, 49053 Fredericktown-Clarkson Road, and against Kaleidoscope Project Inc., owned by Richard Simmons of Canfield, at the request of the Columbiana County Board of Health following a special meeting of the board Wednesday morning. 

The health department became aware in mid-April that Treharne was holding equine events on the property reportedly owned by Simmons, according to environmental director Lori Barnes. 

“We sent a notification to him and he totally disregarded it,” she said.

She said sheriff’s deputies were sent at least once, and he has been warned since, to no avail.

Barnes said some complaints alleged Treharne had as many as 200 people gathered at the facility for these events, including many from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Treharne also boards horses at the site, which Barnes said would be considered an “essential” business due to the need for employees to feed them but that the barrel racing and other activities, especially at the indoor equestrian center, are not part of that designation.

“That is more like an event. We have major league [sports] teams that can’t open up [for the same reason],” Barnes said.

She said other businesses similar to Treharnes’ were checked and none are holding such events. It is hoped the board taking this step will convince him to comply, according to Barnes. 

Treharne was sitting in line at his bank, preparing to deposit funds to help pay for his operation when reached by phone Wednesday, and said, “We are pretty much out of business. I’m here making a deposit so I can make sure everyone has a paycheck tomorrow.”

He did not deny holding some barrel racing, team racing and team penning events at his facility, but said, “It’s not what they’re making it out to be.”

Calling it “absolutely absurd” that anyone claimed he has had 200 people at the equine center recently, Treharne said, “On Saturday [during the last show], there were 18 trailers here. We keep people at their trucks and trailers, a few in the building. On an average Wednesday night, we will get 25 participants and spectators are almost zero. In Carroll County, there were 120 people entered in a class and nobody bothered them. I think they’re making an example of me.

“There are more people in Walmart, Tractor Supply, Giant Eagle and Busy Beaver parking lots than I ever had here,” he continued.

Saying he had run the facility for about 15 years, Treharne said he took it over and bought it last fall, although Simmons is listed as the owner on the court documentation.

“This is like a dream for me. It’s not like a job, but now it is because I’m fighting with the health department,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll come and arrest me if horses are starving. We surely can’t have horses standing in the stalls, not eating.”

This, he said, could become a real threat if something isn’t done to help his financial situation.

“We feed 15 ton of feed every two weeks. All those supplies keep coming, and we have to pay for it. Rogers Feed Mill, where we buy our feed, has been really, really good, but they have employees to pay, too,” he said. “My nine employees aren’t eligible for unemployment. I haven’t laid off my nine people. We’re just trying to survive.

Treharne said  his bills total between $30,000 and $40,000 per month and that $75,000 has been spent since the end of March “to keep everyone surviving.” He learned on his way home from the bank Wednesday that several cruisers had pulled into the facility’s driveway, possibly to ensure that night’s event would not take place.

As part of the restraining order, Treharne was told to cancel events set for Wednesday and Saturday, notifying the public on the facility’s Facebook page, which he said had already been done, despite misgivings on his part.

“There is no way we can close and pay bills and keep the animals fed the proper way,” he worried. “We’ve gotta do something. I’m not going to go ask someone to pay my bills.

“The governor says, ‘Go apply for these loans,’ and our bills are $30,000 a month. That doesn’t do much for me,” he continued. “We haven’t received anything yet, anyway. I got an email saying they were processing them in the order they were received. That’s not gonna pay my feed bill next week or the hay guy. And I have to have insurance.”

A telephone call on the motion for a preliminary injunction is set for 1 p.m. May 13. 

In the motion prepared for the court by assistant prosecutor Krista Peddicord, the order by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton was cited, noting indoor sports facilities and arenas must remain closed and gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. 

“Although these measures are painful to millions of Ohioans, they are both necessary and lawful. Simply put, there is nothing so special about the defendant’s equestrian center that justifies flouting a widely publicized order to close to the public,”  Peddicord argued in the document. “Every day that the defendant’s business remains open to the public, it creates an unnecessary risk to spread the COVID-19 virus.”

This is the first time court action has been taken against a county business for violating orders enacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Hopefully, he’ll just comply,” Barnes said.

A violation is considered a second degree misdemeanor and carries the potential of up to a $750 fine and 90 days in jail, according to health department public information officer Laura Fauss.

For the most part, businesses have been in compliance with the orders set down by the governor, according to Barnes, though sheriff’s deputies had to be dispatched over the weekend to  Mark’s Landing, a restaurant on the shore of Guilford Lake, where a group of about 50 motorcyclists purchased take-out food then settled in on the outdoor patio to eat it, in violation of the ban on mass gatherings. They were dispersed.

Image: https://www.facebook.com/davetreharnetrainingcenter/

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