McGinnis, LEDC settle suit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A dispute between a South Point barge and boat company and the county's economic development corporation has been settled, in court at least.

McGinnis Inc., which operates several marine services facilities along the Ohio River, sued the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and its then director, Pat Clonch in August 2002.

In its lawsuit, McGinnis alleged the LEDC had secretly negotiated a lease of riverfront property at The Point industrial park with Superior Marine Ways, a competitor of McGinnis, at the same time it was in negotiation with McGinnis. Furthermore, McGinnis alleged that as a result of the lease it had lost business.

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"When we got into (the lawsuit), we found out Mrs. Clonch didn't (meet with the entire board)," CEO Doug McGinnis said Tuesday. "She would decide, then go back and tell them. Nobody cared. But, I did care.

"I am one of the largest taxpayers in the county. She was using my tax dollars against me."

The property at The Point is considered a prime location for a river services company because it is close to the confluence of the Big Sandy and Ohio rivers.

Superior has agreed to pay the LEDC $90,000 per month for the property that McGinnis contends is worth much more.

"Understand, this is not just about Doug McGinnis, it is open to the public," he said. "I am sure there are other barge lines with interest."

Earlier this month, attorneys for both parties in the lawsuit agreed to a settlement plan. The settlement papers had not been processed through the court system by Monday, an attorney close to the case said.

In the settlement, the case was thrown out of court with the stipulation that the LEDC would reconsider the contract with Superior and give McGinnis an option to bid on the property.

A special meeting of the LEDC board has been set for 8 a.m., Monday, Sept. 20, at the LEDC office at 216 Collins Ave., South Point. At that meeting, LEDC board members will decide what will occur with the disputed property.

LEDC executive director Bill Dingus said last week that he was glad the lawsuit was settled.

"Like I said from day one when I took over this position, I had three goals," Dingus explained. "One was to get the sewer and street work under way at The Point. Second was to get the spec building going. Third was to get this lawsuit behind us."

Dingus said a gag order as part of the settlement prohibited him from speaking about the details of the settlement.

As a local business for 90 years and employing 180 to 200 people in the South Point area, McGinnis said he was pleased that he has a chance.

"If they want growth, let's do something," McGinnis said. "Let's not do something behind closed doors with a handshake."