Council closes meeting over Avalon issue

Findings for recovery against Avalon are part of the 2001 state audit.
WARREN -- Residents hoping for an explanation of unpaid taxes and other problems with the municipally owned Avalon South Golf Course will have to wait a little longer.
Citizens and the press were asked to leave a meeting Wednesday when city council went into executive session to discuss the matter with Mayor Hank Angelo, Law Director Greg Hicks, Auditor David Griffing, Assistant Law Director David Daugherty and Safety-Service Director Fred Harris.
The meeting was called after numerous requests by resident Sally Shubert-Hall.
Hicks said council had a right to close the meeting because it discussed pending litigation.
Few details given: Angelo said the city learned of possible legal action Monday, but would not elaborate or say who is considering filing action against whom.
Shubert-Hall, of Perkins Northwest, said she and some of the other residents who were hoping for answers feel cheated.
Though she understands the premise of closed meetings, she said she's still calling for a public explanation of uncollected funds.
Angelo said taxpayers have a right to know how problems at Avalon came about, but that the city must be cautious not to give up too much information in the face of legal action.
The Vindicator reported in October that a dispute between the city and the man contracted to run its golf course was allowed to go on for years without a resolution.
Funds owed: The Trumbull County Treasurer's Office says Anthony Joy Jr., president of Avalon South Management Inc., is on a payment plan to repay more than $50,000 in back real property taxes for the 131-acre course in Howland.
The city has paid Joy's tax bill a few times in the past after he failed to do so, and the county has threatened foreclosure on more than one occasion.
At least twice, Joy has also failed to pay the city a required rental fee, due Feb. 1 of each year.
After the meeting, officials did not have exact figures for what Joy owes the city and county. They have said Joy is disputing some of his outstanding debts.
Earlier Wednesday, Angelo confirmed that a state financial audit from 2001 shows findings for recovery regarding Avalon South.
The audit has not been released publicly but will be the topic of a closed-door meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday among the city, council and state auditors.
Joy was unavailable to comment Wednesday.
When contacted after the meeting, his attorney, Thomas LaPolla, would not comment on possible legal action on behalf of or against his client.
Seeking resolution: He did say the city and Joy have been trying to resolve the matter since 1996 and that Joy wants it to be settled peacefully.
Angelo and Councilman Bob Marchese, D-at-large, were the only ones commenting about the closed-door session.
Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at-large, would say only that he's satisfied with information given during the meeting.
The mayor stressed that taxpayers' money is being protected but that explanations must be vague at this point because of litigation.
"This council is prepared to take aggressive action," Marchese said, explaining that legislation will be drawn up for the next council meeting.
Neither he nor Angelo would comment on the nature of the legislation.
The city needs to protect its more than $2 million asset, the mayor said, and explained some decisions regarding Avalon were made before he took office in 1996.
In the past, Daugherty has told the city it was not holding Joy to his management contract and that the matter is "one big headache."
The city has talked of selling the course and Angelo has said he's been contacted by a few interested parties.

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