The attorney general's office objected to the withdrawal of bankruptcy protection.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Saying he had no choice but to honor the request, a federal judge allowed Edward A. Flask to withdraw his request seeking bankruptcy protection.
Flask, a former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District board director, wanted the bankruptcy case to be dismissed because he believes he can obtain a favorable ruling in a $2.4 million civil lawsuit filed by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which was the primary liability he listed in his bankruptcy protection request.
Judges have dismissed similar lawsuits against Frank D. DeJute of Niles, another former MVSD board director, and the Gilbane Building Co., a Rhode Island company that served as the construction manager on $50 million worth of capital improvement projects at the water agency. The attorney general contends Flask, of Poland, and DeJute authorized payments to Gilbane for work that was never done at the MVSD.
Because of those rulings, Flask is confident he can get his civil case dismissed.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge William T. Bodoh said during a Wednesday hearing that he had no other option than to follow federal law and honor Flask's request to withdraw his voluntarily bankruptcy filing.
But because of what he called "unusual circumstances" related to the case -- primarily Flask's admission that he filed for bankruptcy protection to bring the civil lawsuit to a halt -- Judge Bodoh included in his ruling that the former MVSD director cannot file for bankruptcy protection for the next 180 days.
Andrew W. Suhar, Flask's bankruptcy attorney, said he could make no guarantee that his client wouldn't refile for bankruptcy protection after the 180 days expired.
"I'm left with the conclusion that what was sought wasn't bankruptcy relief, but a stay on a state court action," Judge Bodoh said in court. "Am I being too cynical?"
The judge's decision came over the objection of the attorney general's office, which wanted nothing done with Flask's bankruptcy case. The attorney general had initially objected to Flask's bankruptcy filing when he submitted it Oct. 19, three days before the civil case was to begin.
A decision to give Flask protection from his creditors was never made.
Foresees winning appeals
Michelle Sutter, an assistant attorney general, said her office has filed appeals in the Gilbane and DeJute cases and is confident the decisions in both will be overturned. The attorney general's office is concerned Flask could "run in and out of bankruptcy" if the Gilbane and DeJute decisions are overturned.
In his filing with the bankruptcy court last year, Flask listed $2,598,941 in liabilities -- most of it being the $2.4 million lawsuit -- and $15,801.90 in personal property assets. Flask wrote in the filing that he is a self-employed consultant earning about $3,000 a month with $3,832 in monthly expenses.