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TRUMBULL COUNTY Court backs dismissal of suit against DeJute



Published: Fri, March 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The attorney general has not decided if he will pursue the case.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A visiting judge was right to throw out most of a $2.4 million case against Frank D. DeJute, former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District director, the 11th District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The Ohio Attorney General's office dropped the rest of the lawsuit after the decision by visiting Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard M. Markus last year.

"This is not unexpected," DeJute said. "Every ruling in this case from the very beginning has gone my way. When you are right, when you haven't done anything wrong, the system seems to work."

The attorney general filed separate $2.4 million cases in 1998 against DeJute; Edward A. Flask of Poland, 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 project.

About the suits

The lawsuits contend the directors improperly paid Gilbane for construction work not performed at the sanitary district, which provides water to about 300,000 Mahoning and Trumbull county residents.

"Obviously, we are disappointed in the ruling," said Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro. "The attorney general feels all public officials should be accountable for all public money that comes into their hands and this was clearly a sham contract."

Monday, a three-judge panel of the 11th District Court of Appeals affirmed that Judge Markus acted properly by considering what happened to the lawsuit against Gilbane in federal court when he gave summary judgment in favor of DeJute.

Part of Judge Markus' reasoning for throwing out most of the DeJute case was that in the Gilbane case, U.S. Court Judge George C. Smith ruled that payments to the company were not illegal.

The attorney general has appealed that decision.

The case against Flask in Mahoning County Common Pleas court was put on hold when Flask filed for bankruptcy last year. Flask has since withdrawn his bankruptcy filing but the attorney general has not re-filed the civil suit.

The attorney general has not decided if it will appeal the DeJute decision.

"We are considering our options," Norris said.




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