Rutland asserts it owns disputed property

Denies ownership claims of Meigs County Commissioners

By Sarah Hawley -

POMEROY – The Village of Rutland denies the ownership claims of the Meigs County Commissioners in its answer to the pending breach of contract litigation over the former bus garage property in the village.

In the 44-page filing, the village asserts that it is the owner of the property which is located next to the Rutland Civic Center. The village, per its own admission, entered into a contract with Commerce Street Partners LLC (CSP), for the purpose of constructing a Dollar General on the property. In addition to the bus garage property, the property directly in front of it where a log cabin currently sits would also be sold to CSP.

The sale of the property was directly negotiated between the village and the buyer, with the property never advertised for sale as is required under Ohio law.

The filing states that in March 2016 the village was approached by CSP regarding the possibility of purchasing the property. The parties negotiated an agreement, with a contract executed on June 24 and 25.

Per the contract, which is attached to the village’s answer and counter claim, CSP was to pay the village an amount of $60,000 for the property.

The filing states that at the time of the contract, both the old bus garage and the cabin were both liabilities to the village due to the building conditions. Should the property be sold and demolished for the Dollar General store then the liability would no longer exist, as well as removing the “eyesores” from property within the village.

The village states that a title search on the property completed by Title First Agency Inc. of Columbus shows the village as the owner. (Note: It has been stated since the start of the case by both parties that the deed remained in the village’s name).

The village filing response acknowledges that Commissioner Randy Smith spoke at a council meeting in August 2016 claiming that the county owned the bus garage property, based on his interpretation of the contract. The village contends that this was the first time any member of the Meigs County Commissioners had asserted a claim to the parcel of property.

After the council meeting, the village took steps to examine and confirm their ownership, which it did, according to the filing.

The sale of the property was to close on Jan. 26, 2017, but was stopped by the court action.

The village specifically denied a new claim made by the county in it’s amended complaint filed on March 27. In that complaint, the county for the first time raises the transfer of restitution payments and/or insurance and bond payments relating to the theft of water and sewer funds by former village employee Laura Curtis, as well as property located on New Lima Road.

The counterclaim filed by the village contends that Smith, acting with the “apparent authority” of the commissioners, acted maliciously by contacting the buyer and their attorney informing them of the county’s purported claim of ownership. Additionally, Smith sent copies of documents to CSP and legal counsel related to the claim.

“The purpose of both the telephone call and the sending of documents was to prevent Defendants and CSP from completing the contract and closing on the sale of property to CSP, all to the damage of the defendants,” the filing states.

The actions, the village contends, were interference of the contract between CSP and the village, as well as interference of a business relationship between the parties.

Smith’s actions, the claim states, were not taken as part of his role with the commissioners and were “taken with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner.”

When asked to respond to the claims made in the filing, Smith declined to address the specifics ahead of an anticipated filing by Prosecutor James K. Stanley.

“The prosecutor is actively working on a response which will be filed as soon as possible,” Smith told the Sentinel in a phone conversation.

The Commissioners met in executive session during Thursday’s regular meeting to discuss legal matters, along with personnel.

The county had been granted a preliminary injunction barring the sale of the property earlier this year while the current action is pending.

Denies ownership claims of Meigs County Commissioners

By Sarah Hawley