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WARREN Golf course operator owes city, auditor says



Published: Thu, February 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A city councilman is encouraged that problems were brought to light.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The state auditor's office says the operator of Avalon South Golf Course owes Warren more than $332,521 in missed payments.

The city's 2000 financial audit was released this morning by Auditor Jim Petro, showing findings for recovery against Tony Joy Jr., who until recently ran the municipal course under a lease with the city.

The audit says the city paid $189,700 in real property taxes for the course from 1989 to 1998, even though it was Joy's responsibility.

Joy also owes $142,821 for rental payments he never made in 1996 and 2000.

The audit says Joy didn't pay rent in 2001, but it notes that an amount had not been established at the time of the audit.

Suit against city: Joy filed a lawsuit against the city last week, saying it breached their contract and unfairly evicted him. He is still working at the course while attorneys for both sides hammer out the issues.

There was no answer this morning at Avalon South, and Mayor Hank Angelo was unavailable.

Law Director Greg Hicks said he hasn't seen the audit but he has heard there would be findings.

"That's what we've been arguing all along," he said. "They didn't tell us anything we didn't know."

Going after the money will be a topic for the legal process, he said.

His involvement in the matter is up in the air because a few council members have asked the city law department to step aside because of possible conflicts.

A few lawmakers have said they want to hire an outside law firm.

Councilman Bob Marchese, D-at-large, said this morning he is encouraged and relieved that the auditors are bringing the situation to light and are showing "how great the problem is out there."

City council is considering a number of options for making changes at Avalon South.

Angelo has recommended that a parks board be established to handle city parks, including Avalon South. He also wants council to agree to change the name of Avalon South to Avalon Golf Park.

Joy contends in his lawsuit that he was assured by a prior administration that 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 be taxed, city records state.

Council agreed last week to pay off the $345,000 remaining on a $425,000 loan Joy secured for improvements at the course.

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.




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