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SEBRING Taxpayer drops suit against village



Published: Tue, January 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The village agreed to hold the company's mortgage as collateral for the loan.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A taxpayer's lawsuit against the village of Sebring has been dismissed.

The village has agreed to secure a loan it extended to an Alliance company that wants to relocate into Sebring, and the taxpayer is dropping a Sunshine Law violation complaint.

The suit was filed Dec. 7 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by James W. Cook of North 12th Street, Sebring. It alleged that village council illegally voted in November to lend $100,000 to KELCO General Commercial, an Alliance company with a warehouse in Sebring.

The objection: The suit said that the loan was made with no repayment schedule, interest or collateral and that council violated Ohio's open meetings law, known as the Sunshine Law, to discuss it.

Atty. Kenneth Cardinal, who filed the suit for Cook, said the complaint can be refiled if council does not abide by the settlement agreement.

To settle the suit, the village agreed to secure the loan by using KELCO's mortgage as collateral, Cardinal said.

"There has to be some security for this type of loan," Cardinal said. "That's all [Cook] wanted. This was never done to keep jobs out of Sebring."

Village Manager Teddy Ryan said previously that the loan was an economic development incentive to help persuade the company to locate its entire operation to Sebring.

It's a zero-interest loan that would eventually be forgiven if the company meets certain conditions, mostly regarding improvement of the property. The proposed site is an old pottery factory in an abandoned industrial area.

Negative message: Ryan complained that the lawsuit would send a negative message to other companies about Sebring's ability to offer such incentives. He could not be reached to comment on the settlement.

The suit said that before voting on the loan in November, council moved to executive session to discuss economic development, which is not among the valid reasons for a public body to go behind closed doors.

As part of the settlement agreement, Cardinal and Cook agreed to drop the allegation that council violated the open meetings law. The suit had asked that the village be ordered to refrain from such acts and be fined $500.

bjackson@vindy.com




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