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Lawsuit filed against CAO over assets

The impasse between a county cleanup agency and the organization that once managed it is officially heading to court.

On March 8, the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District filed a lawsuit against the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization in common pleas court.

From the 1990s until November the CAO had operated the solid waste district’s program under an approximately $362,000 annual contract. That association began when the district had run into problems with the state Environmental Protection Agency.

When the district’s board, made up of the commissioners from both counties, voted to sever ties with the CAO, the district became an independent agency. Its headquarters are now in Lawrence County and its staff now Scioto County employees with county benefits and state retirement.

Funding for the district comes from the $12 annual fee placed on all improved parcels in both counties. In 2012, total revenue for the district was $640,919.

Among the issues in contention is the ownership of five vehicles the CAO had purchased for the solid waste district for use in its litter and trash cleanup work. In November after the district broke with the CAO, the district was told by the CAO that those vehicles were CAO assets. The district countered that it owned the vehicles since they were paid for from the parcel fee.

Since the district’s staff was no longer CAO employees, the CAO’s insurance policy could no longer cover them, preventing the solid waste district from using the vehicles. At that time solid waste district staff was instructed by director Dan Palmer not to return the vehicles and park them at undisclosed locations.

In the six-count complaint filed by the district’s attorney, Scioto County assistant prosecutor, Danielle Parker, the solid waste district seeks a declaration by the court that the vehicles “belong to and are the property of the plaintiff, the Lawrence-Scioto SWMD.”

The complaint also seeks that the CAO repay to the district any money received in excess of the contract; $230,255 as reimbursement for overpayment made by the district to the CAO “for the time provided and expenses incurred up to the termination date;” $84,134 “as reimbursement for any and all funds paid by the plaintiff for the purchase of the vehicles;” and an injunction stopping the CAO from using the vehicles and from canceling insurance on the vehicles.

Before the lawsuit was filed, Parker and Curt Anderson, the CAO’s lawyer, were beginning to attempt to negotiate a resolution about the ownership issue.

“It is frustrating that you come to a point where there is a lawsuit without having been able to negotiate or sit down and talk with them,” D.R. Gossett, CAO executive director, said.