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WARREN Suit: City reneged on pact



Published: Fri, February 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city law director said the suit wasn't unexpected.

By AMANDA C. DAVISand PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- On the eve of his eviction from Avalon South Golf Course, Tony Joy decided to strike back at the city by filing a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and saying he doesn't plan to vacate the premises.

Joy has run the course for the city since 1988 but was notified recently he has until today to vacate his office. The lawsuit says Joy has seven years left on his agreement.

"I'm not going," Joy said Thursday. "As far as I am concerned, I have a lease and I am still staying."

He filed a lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Thursday, asking for in excess of $25,000 and for an injunction to stop the eviction. A hearing date hasn't been set; the suit has been assigned to Judge Andrew Logan.

Greg Hicks, city law director, said the lawsuit was expected.

"I was aware that this may be coming," Hicks said. "I can't comment further because I have not yet read it."

What Joy plans: Richard Schwartz, one of Joy's attorneys, told city council's finance committee meeting Thursday his client put his heart into the course and was a good tenant who brought money into the city.

Until the matter is resolved, Joy plans to stay on at Avalon South and ready the course for the season, Schwartz said.

Joy contends in the suit he was assured by a prior administration the property would never be taxable.

In the mid-1990s, the Ohio Department of Taxation ruled the city was under a for-profit lease agreement and the course could therefore be taxed, city records state.

The lawsuit says the city knew the property would be taxable but concealed that information when it bid on the lease agreement "causing the plaintiff and other bidders to bid more than could reasonably be afforded."

What suit contends: The suit adds that the city found out about the ruling in 1995 but waited nearly a year to tell him.

Joy says he had a sprinkler system installed in 1992 for $231,835 and a clubhouse was supposed to be remodeled for an estimated $150,000.

Joy says the city engineering department told him Jan. 3, 1995, the clubhouse could be rebuilt for slightly more.

He says it ended up costing $270,000 for a contract the city never sought bids for.

The cost of the clubhouse, on top of what was still owed on the sprinkling system, was more than the $425,000 loan Joy secured in 1995 from Second National Bank, the lawsuit states.

The city backed the loan, saying Joy was also supposed to build a bathroom on the course and replace a storage shed roof. Councilman Doc Pugh, D-6th, and a resident gave a presentation to city council last week, showing that work was never done.

The lawsuit says the city law department missed the deadline to appeal the ruling by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

How things stand: Problems with the financially troubled course were outlined in a Vindicator article in October, showing that Joy was behind in paying his property taxes and rent. He is currently in default with the city for three years' rent.

Since then, the city has met with Joy to try to reach an accord but decided instead on the eviction. Council agreed last week to pay off the $345,000 remaining on Joy's loan.

The administration is recommending that council form a parks board to run the course and rename it Avalon Golf Park.

There has been some talk of selling the course or hiring someone else to run it for the city.

The FBI has said it's looking into possible wrongdoing at the course and has spoken with Joy on a few occasions.

davis@vindy.comsinkovich@vindy.com




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