Archived Story

Lawyers negotiating who gets vehicles

Published 9:15am Thursday, February 21, 2013

CAO seeks ‘fair resolution’ of situation


Solving an impasse between the county’s solid waste district and its one-time boss is now down to the attorneys.

On Tuesday the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization had their regular board meetings but with no immediate action taken to resolve who owns the vehicles that were once used exclusively by the solid waste district.

“We just want a fair resolution,” D.R. Gossett, executive director of the CAO, said after the meeting. “If there is some way to honor the basic legal standings of our relationship. If they want to negotiate, we will be flexible.”

In November the solid waste district broke its ties to the CAO, the agency that had managed the clean-up organization since the 1990s when it had run into problems with the state Environmental Protection Agency.

When the district’s board, made up of the commissioners from both counties, voted to sever ties with the CAO, the district became an independent agency headquarters are located in Lawrence and its staff now Scioto County employees with county benefits and state retirement.

When the CAO operated the district, it was under a yearly contract of $385,000 out of which the CAO was paid administrative and oversight fees. It was out of that $385,000 that four cars, two trailers and a litter van were purchased. Those vehicles were used by the solid waste district in its work to clean up litter eyesores and tire dumps, prosecuting those breaking dumping and littering laws.

However, after the split the CAO said the vehicles were its assets and retained titles to the cars and trucks. The CAO also said insurance that once covered liability of district employees when driving the vehicles would now be invalid since the staff no longer worked for the CAO.

“Those vehicles were bought by the CAO, not the county,” Gossett said at the time. “It is a fair statement we basically bought those with the money the county had given us. But the county gave us that money for performance with no strings attached. They were happy with the performance, including taking the risk of buying assets and employing individuals.”

But solid waste district director Dan Palmer contends the vehicles belong to the district, not the CAO, and instructed staff to park the cars at undisclosed locations and not drive them. They are currently using a Scioto sheriff’s cruiser on loan to them and a donated van.

Deciding which side is right has been ongoing between the two sides after the solid waste district instructed its attorney, Danielle Parker, Scioto assistant prosecutor, to take any legal means to get the vehicles back.

On Wednesday Parker said she is waiting to hear from Curt Anderson, the CAO attorney.

“I am waiting to hear communication,” she said. “He had an appointment with D.R. (Gossett) and will be getting in touch with me.”

Also according to a member of the district, Parker instructed the district staff to refer all questions to her.

Gossett confirmed Parker’s understanding of the situation.

“This is down to Danielle Parker and Curt Anderson,” he said. “The two of them are back and forth talking. We want the goodwill of the community but have a deal that is not one-sided. It is certainly a terrible distraction. I would rather have it resolved sooner rather than later. We have tried to come up with ideas and float things that would hopefully prompt them to have some ideas.

Lawrence County Commissioners Bill Pratt and Les Boggs are on both the CAO and solid waste boards. Pratt attended the solid waste board meeting on Tuesday and sees the only way to resolve the situation is through negotiations between the attorneys.

“I don’t think we have any choice but to get a legal answer to the problem, even though personally I feel a little differently about the situation,” Pratt said. “It will have to come to a legal conclusion. I had hopes it could be resolved in a different way, but having got word from both meetings, it won’t happen at this point. Unfortunately the only solution is sometimes to take legal action.”

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