Commissioners keep fighting for SEOEMS money

Published 9:47 am Friday, February 3, 2012

May hire outside counsel

Lawrence County Commissioners want the taxpayers’ money back and may hire a private attorney to fight their case against a former emergency medical service.

At their Thursday meeting commissioners vowed to recover the more than $300,000 a 2011 audit they believe shows the county is owed from Southeast Emergency Medical Service, an EMS once made up of Lawrence, Jackson and Athens counties.

In December the commission went to the county prosecutor’s office for assistance; that office asked state Attorney General Mike DeWine to intervene. However in a Jan. 11 letter from DeWine to County Prosecutor J.B. Collier, the attorney general wrote “I do not find it appropriate for my office to commence an action on this matter. This is not a case that involves collection of a debt on behalf of a state agency or client. As you know, this matter may ultimately involve Athens or Jackson counties, who also funded the district. The local debt initiative I have undertaken … does not contemplate pursuing one or more local governments on behalf of another.”

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DeWine’s letter states that if the commissioners want to continue pursuing the matter, they might want to hire outside counsel, if Collier thinks there is a conflict if his office handles the matter.

“It seems that every state office looking at the case realizes we are right, but won’t give us the assistance to get the money to Lawrence County,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “They want to backpedal and let Lawrence County handle getting the money. If we do, it is because the Lawrence County Commissioners didn’t let go of it.”

Commission President Les Boggs wants the commissioners to meet with Collier to consider options and he hopes that Collier will handle the fight as Boggs doesn’t believe the prosecutor’s assistance would be facing a conflict of interest.

“The commission needs to act on this swiftly and make a decision at our meeting next week,” Boggs said.

In other business the commission approved:

• Sending four deputies to tactical training school and purchasing equipment for the sheriff’s office for a total cost of $7,800;

• Heard that the county treasurer’s office has collected $3.6 million in first half property tax;

• Approved purchasing or leasing two ambulances for the EMS for a total cost of $190,000;

• Approved GeoTechnical as the consultant to design repairs on two landslides on County Road 16;

• Reappointed Danny Holschuh and Larry Wood to the Lawrence County Planning Commission;

• Received the weekly dog warden report where 16 dogs were sold; two were redeemed by their owner and four were destroyed. This week there were 59 dogs in custody.