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Commission to take SEOEMS to court



A lawsuit by the Lawrence County Commission against the former emergency medical services system it was once a part of will be filed.

That decision came during the commission’s Thursday meeting following an hour-long executive session with the three commissioners, Assistant Prosecutor Brigham Anderson and County Auditor Jason Stephens.

The vote approving the lawsuit was unanimous.

“We are filing against SEOEMS for the money we feel is reasonably owed to Lawrence County,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “We feel we owe that to the citizens of Lawrence County to fight for them.”

The decades-old Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services was disbanded at the end of 2010 after Jackson and Athens counties pulled out leaving Lawrence County as the remaining member. That forced Lawrence County to start its own EMS.

A subsequent state audit of SEOEMS showed that the agency owed Lawrence County more than $300,000. The commission sought reimbursement of that money through various avenues, including appealing to state Attorney General Mike DeWine.

“We’re seeking various funds,” Anderson said after the meeting. “The audit that the state performed, contracts and portions of other money owed because SEOEMS was not dissolved properly.”

In 2010 there were six tower sites located throughout the tri-county SEOEMS region appraised for a total of $1.7 million, according to Stephens. When he was on the SEOEMS board and county commission, Stephens had pushed for the selling of those sites and distributing the proceeds.

“I am glad (the commissioners) are standing up for the citizens of Lawrence County,” the auditor said.

There have also been payments made to SEOEMS on past due bills since the dissolution.

“The assets have not been divided pursuant to the contract with SEOEMS,” Anderson said.

However, Athens and Jackson commissioners beat Lawrence into the courtroom filing a writ of mandamus against the commissioners and the auditor in the Fourth District Court of Appeals in March.

Athens and Jackson commissioners said they wanted Lawrence to pay what they called its share of the SEOEMS dissolution.

“They are refusing to pay,” Lenny Eliason, Athens commissioner, said at the time. “(The writ) asks for a government body to fulfill their obligation.

However Lawrence County countered saying the lawsuit was filed in the wrong court and that Athens and Jackson do not have a valid claim, Anderson said.

There will be a mediation session on that lawsuit mandated by the appellate court on May 25 in Chillicothe courtroom of Appellate Judge William Harsha.