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MVSD CASE DeJute asks judge to end suit before trial begins



Published: Tue, January 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lawsuit contends the former board director improperly paid a Rhode Island company for work not performed.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

WARREN -- Frank D. DeJute is asking the judge overseeing a $2.4 million lawsuit filed against him by the Ohio Attorney General's Office for summary judgment on a majority of the suit.

The attorney general filed separate $2.4 million lawsuits against DeJute, of Niles, and Edward A. Flask of Poland, two former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District board directors, as well as the Gilbane Building Co. of Rhode Island, which served as construction manager on the water agency's $50 million capital improvement project.

The lawsuits contend DeJute and Flask improperly paid Gilbane for construction work not performed at the MVSD, which makes up more than 97 percent of the money being sought by the attorney general, and that the two former directors improperly received health, retirement and life insurance benefits from the MVSD.

A federal judge dismissed the Gilbane case, saying the payments were not illegal.

Motion: DeJute wrote in a motion for judgment Monday that the federal judge's decision to dismiss the Gilbane case bars the attorney general from "relegating that issue, and Mr. DeJute is entitled to judgment with respect to those two findings for recovery ... There is no distinction to be drawn between these findings for recovery as they relate to Mr. DeJute on the one hand and as they relate to Gilbane on the other."

Summary judgment is a finding prior to the trial in which the court determines the evidence is insufficient to allow the claim to continue and renders judgment in favor of one party.

Visiting Judge Richard M. Markus, who is overseeing DeJute's case, raised the possibility of the federal judge's decision playing a factor in DeJute's case in a ruling earlier this month. He wrote that the Gilbane decision "may bar a claim here which requires the plaintiff to prove the same issue."

The judge wrote that DeJute would have to amend his motion if he wants to assert that defense and then prove it at his trial.

"I've got a good leg to stand on since I'm following the judge's direction," DeJute said.

Trial: DeJute's trial is set for Feb. 19 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The case is expected to take about five days.

If the judge rules in DeJute's favor and dismisses the two Gilbane claims, which total $2,345,890, he would have to defend himself against three other claims, totaling $69,972, that he improperly received health care, life insurance and retirement benefits.

DeJute said he was given those benefits by the MVSD's court of jurisdiction and the benefits were never questioned by the state auditor's office during annual audits of the water agency. Therefore, DeJute says, he is not responsible for paying back that money.

skolnick@vindy.com




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