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County responds to Athens lawsuit

 

Lawrence County wants the lawsuit Athens County filed against it dismissed.

Earlier this month the county filed its response to a writ of mandamus by Athens in an attempt to get money Athens says Lawrence owes the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services.

The tri-county emergency service was dissolved at the end of 2010 when Athens and Jackson counties pulled out.

Since then Athens and Lawrence have publicly sparred over who owes what as far as the SEOEMS dissolution.

In February Athens County Commissioners voted to file the writ against the Lawrence County Commissioners and the County Auditor to pay what Athens says is its fair share of bills that occurred after SEOEMS was dissolved. That suit was filed in March with the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

“They are refusing to pay,” Lenny Eliason, Athens commissioner, said at the time.

Eliason did not have a dollar amount but said the bills included back worker’s compensation and unemployment.

However Lawrence Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson says Athens doesn’t have a valid claim against the county.

“They failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” Anderson said.

For almost a year Lawrence commissioners have tried to get more than $300,000 that it says a state audit shows was owed to the county from SEOEMS. Commissioners asked state Attorney Mike DeWine to intercede. DeWine declined.

The commissioners are currently considering having the county prosecutor’s office take the matter to court.

Anderson also seeks dismissal of the Athens lawsuit on the grounds that it was filed with the wrong court.

“We believe it is not the appropriate venue to file the action,” Anderson said. “In order to (file in the appellate court) you have to show no adequate remedy at law in a common pleas court and they do have a remedy. They are simply suing for money damages. That type of claim has to brought in common pleas court.”

Now the county must wait for the appellate court to take action.

“The court of appeals will either decide the case or ask for oral arguments,” he said.