State pushes for Flask lawsuit
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Ohio attorney general's office is asking a federal judge to allow it to move ahead with its $2.4 million civil lawsuit against Edward A. Flask even though he has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Flask, of Poland, a former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District board director and a once-prominent local attorney, filed for protection from his creditors under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code Oct. 19, three days before the civil trial was to begin.
The filing caused the civil suit to be postponed until Flask's bankruptcy matters are resolved. The attorney general's office objects to the bankruptcy filing and questions its validity.
"We feel these dollars [being sought in the lawsuit] do not fall under the protection of the bankruptcy umbrella and we should be able to pursue them," said Joe Case, the attorney general's spokesman.
Deadline: Flask's creditors -- he lists the attorney general's office as his largest because of the civil suit -- have until Monday to file objections to the bankruptcy claim. The attorney general's office filed one this week with Judge William T. Bodoh of U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Flask recently changed bankruptcy lawyers, hiring Andrew W. Suhar of Youngstown to replace John Paris of Cleveland. A closed-door deposition of Flask is set for Feb. 11 at Suhar's office.
In his bankruptcy filing, Flask lists $2,598,941 in liabilities and $15,801.90 in personal property assets. He lists $3,832 in monthly expenses.
During an initial meeting of his creditors last month, Flask said he is a self-employed business consultant who earns about $3,000 a month. He also said he lives with his daughter, does not own any furniture, has four pieces of jewelry, has an office, and drives a leased 1999 Oldsmobile.
The attorney general's office filed three separate lawsuits in August 1998 against Flask; Frank D. DeJute of Niles, another former MVSD board director; and the Gilbane Building Co. of Rhode Island, which served as construction manager on the water agency's $50 million capital improvement program.
What suits contend: The lawsuits contend Flask and DeJute improperly paid Gilbane for construction work never performed at the MVSD, and that the two former directors improperly received health, retirement and life insurance benefits from the water agency.
A federal judge dismissed the Gilbane case in October, saying the company did not receive any illegal fees from the MVSD. DeJute is asking for the judge hearing his case for summary judgment on a majority of the suit, citing the Gilbane decision as his primary reason for seeking the judgment.
Flask served 90 days in Trumbull County Jail in 2000 after being convicted on nine charges related to improperly accepting $2 million in cash and gifts from vendors that did work with the MVSD.
The district oversees operation of Meander Reservoir, which provides water for residents in Youngstown, Niles and surrounding communities.