Board OKs attorney to get vehicles back to agency

Published 9:50 am Friday, December 7, 2012

The Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management Board has authorized its attorney to get back ownership of the district’s vehicles from the agency that once managed the district.

Without those four cars, two trailers and a litter van, district director Dan Palmer said his staff cannot perform their duties.

“The phone calls (reporting dumping complaints) are coming in,” Palmer said. “The public is wondering why. We can’t do our job.”

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At its Thursday quarterly board meeting, the board, made up of Lawrence and Scioto county commissioners, unanimously approved a motion authorizing the board’s attorney Danielle Parker “to pursue acquisition of those vehicles by

whatever legal means necessary.”

Parker is also an assistant prosecuting attorney with Scioto County.

On Nov. 12 the solid waste district broke ties with the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization that had managed the district since the late 1990s becoming then an independent agency. During those years the CAO administered the district using $385,000 from the $12 a year parcel fee levied on property owners in Lawrence and Scioto. That fee brings in on average $640,000 a year.

From that $385,000 the CAO paid the salaries of the district’s five employees and purchased supplies and assets, including the vehicles. The CAO also took approximately $18,000 to cover administrative fees.

While the CAO was managing the district, its staff was CAO employees. After the split Scioto County took over those duties, making district employees county workers with county and state benefits that they did not have before.

On Nov. 20, the CAO board declined to transfer the titles to the vehicles to the solid waste district. Ten days later the CAO dropped insurance coverage on the cars.

Right now all vehicles are in the possession of the district but cannot be used since without titles the district can’t get insurance coverage.

“I am very disappointed with the CAO,” Lawrence County Commissioner and SWM board chair Freddie Hayes said at the meeting. “The taxpayers pay for services. We are not giving them the services.”

“(The CAO) used solid waste district funds to pay for them,” Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs said. “The right thing to do is to (transfer) them to the solid waste district where they rightfully belong.”

Parker told the board that she had talked with CAO director D.R. Gossett about the cars.

“In their eyes the CAO had bought the cars and basically assigned them to the solid waste district,” Parker said. “He is pretty stuck on that.”

Gossett has called the cars unrestricted assets.

“Those vehicles were bought by the CAO, not by the county,” Gossett said in an earlier interview. “When we designated (employees) for solid waste, they were CAO employees and the same thing for the assets. They were CAO assets. They paid us for the services to administer the solid waste. All of those dollars were unrestricted dollars.

“It is a fair statement we basically bought those with the money the county had given us. But the county gave us that money for performance with no strings attached. They were happy with the performance, including taking the risk of buying assets and employing individuals.”

Also in contention is $157,000 that is remaining from the original $385,000 transferred from the parcel to the CAO to run the district.

According to Palmer, the CAO is not releasing that money because there are still bills to be paid. Parker was also authorized to recover those funds.

Until ownership of the vehicles is resolved, the board told Palmer either to rent cars for the staff or pay mileage to them for use of their personal cars for district business.