Records sought to resolve lawsuits

Published 11:15 am Thursday, August 23, 2012

More information is still sought after a second mandated mediation session over lawsuits focusing on the now defunct Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services ended with no resolution.

“We are still gathering bank records from SEOEMS,” Brigham Anderson, Lawrence County Assistant Prosecutor, said. “I don’t think we have all the information to be able to mediate it. We have the bank records that contain what money was spent, but the records don’t say who the checks were made payable to.”

The next meeting is set for Dec. 7. If no agreement is reached, the next step will lead to court, Anderson said.

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Anderson, County Auditor Jason Stephens and County Commission President Les Boggs met with representatives from Athens and Jackson counties Friday in Chillicothe for the second session mandated by the Fourth District Court of Appeals. That order from the court followed the filing of a lawsuit by Athens and Jackson against Lawrence and a subsequent suit by Lawrence against Athens, Jackson and SEOEMS.

For decades the three counties operated SEOEMS, disbanding it in December 2010 when Athens and Jackson pulled out. That forced Lawrence County to start its own EMS.

Soon afterwards a state audit of SEOEMS showed that the agency owed Lawrence County more than $300,000 and that Athens and Jackson owed SEOEMS approximately $645,000.

In March Athens and Jackson county commissioners filed a lawsuit in the Fourth District Court against Lawrence claiming the county owed a share of the SEOEMS dissolution costs. Lawrence has disputed that saying suit was filed in the wrong court.

In May Lawrence filed its own suit in common pleas court seeking more than $1 million in damages over what it alleges is the failure to reimburse the county for receipts paid over expenditures.

Resolving these two lawsuits is the purpose of mediation sessions. In dispute as well are six radio towers owned by SEOEMS with an appraised value of $1,750,000.

Lawrence County alleges that at the dissolution of the EMS, the towers and real estate were distributed in a disproportionate manner, violating the contract that created SEOEMS.

“I think the numbers are in Lawrence County’s favor,” County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “It is just a matter of proving it to all the parties involved that our math is correct.”

Both Stephens and Boggs were on commission at the time of the dissolution of SEOEMS and for the past year Boggs has pushed to get the money he says the EMS owes the county.

“We have always believed Lawrence County is owed money from SEOEMS around $301,000 and the two other counties also owe SEOEMS,” Boggs said. “I have the utmost confidence in our prosecutor that we will recover some of that money.”

Anderson is hopeful there can be a resolution at the next mediation session.

“If we are unable to settle through mediation, we will ask the court of appeals to rule on our motion to dismiss (Athens and Jackson’s lawsuit) and we will proceed with our lawsuit in Lawrence County,” Anderson said.