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County seeks $1.3 million from SEOEMS

A lawsuit against a now defunct tri-county emergency medical services seeks more than $1 million in damages for Lawrence County.

On Friday, the Lawrence County Commissioners filed in common pleas court a lawsuit against the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services and the commissioners and auditors from Athens and Jackson counties.

The suit alleges failures to reimburse Lawrence County for money owed. The county seeks judgment in the amount of $1,341,396 from SEOEMS.

“This lawsuit is long overdue,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “The people of Lawrence County deserve better than what we have been handed by SEOEMS.”

In 1995, SEOEMS was created to provide emergency ambulance service to Lawrence, Jackson and Athens counties. On Dec. 31, 2010, Jackson and Athens county commissioners voted to pull out of the agency to set up separate EMS units. On Jan. 1, 2011, Lawrence County started its own EMS.

According to the complaint written by Assistant Prosecutor Brigham Anderson, upon the dissolution of SEOEMS assets and debts were to be distributed according to the formula of 40 percent to go to Athens, 40 percent to Lawrence and 20 percent to Jackson.

“SEOEMS was required to reimburse Lawrence County for receipts paid over expenditures,” the lawsuit states.

That adds up to $169,851 in 2008; $118,750 in 2009; and $12,795 in 2010, which is the amount Lawrence County officials say a state audit shows was owed to the county by the SEOEMS.

Also after the dissolution of SEOEMS revenue from bills continued to be collected. Lawrence County’s share of that equals $340,000, according to the lawsuit.

“A lot of money came in afterwards and we haven’t seen any of it,” Anderson said. “And SEOEMS is still receiving money.”

In dispute as well are the six radio towers owned by SEOEMS with an appraised value of $1,750,000.

“Upon dissolution the Board of Directors (of SEOEMS) improperly voted to distribute the radio and communication towers and real estate in a disproportionate manner and in violation of (the contract),” the suit said. “Lawrence County was entitled to receive $700,000 which is represented by Lawrence County’s 40 percent share of the appraised value.”

The suit also seeks that Athens and Jackson counties pay back to SEOEMS money the suit alleges is owed to the EMS because each county’s expenditures exceeded its revenue in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those figures are $409,118 for Athens and $304,482 for Jackson and were also determined during the state audit.

“In those years Lawrence County’s revenues were more than the operation and we are entitled to a reimbursement from SEOEMS,” Anderson said. “They brought in less money than it cost to run their operations and that’s why we say they owe SEOEMS. They are required to pay that to SEOEMS just as SEOEMS is required to pay Lawrence County back for the money they owe us.”

A jury trial is requested.