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Court finds commissioners violated terms of contract



Published: Tue, October 26, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new company now charges more.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners violated terms of a contract with a Howland businessman who wants them to pay him $18,000.

Monday, the 11th District Court of Appeals ruled that commissioners did not provide proper notification before canceling an annual contract with Benefit Services of Ohio to administer the county's workers' compensation claims.

The contract stipulated that it would automatically renew April 1 unless the county gave 90 days notice of its intent to back out.

However, in 2002 county commissioners solicited bids to take over the contract, and eventually awarded it to another company, without notifying Benefit Services that it wasn't planning to renew, the appeals court found.

Benefit Services President Robert Carr said he was told by an employee of commissioners that he could bid for the contract soon before the contract period ended.

"Why would I want to do that?" he asked. "The contract just automatically renews."

The appeals decision overturned a summary judgment against Benefit Services by Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan.

The case will go back to common pleas court.

"I don't know if we will go ahead and try it, or if we will talk settlement," said assistant prosecutor James Saker, who represented commissioners. "I haven't made any of those decisions."

Service fee

Benefit Services is seeking $18,000 damages, which would have been the annual service fee for the 12 months beginning in April 2002, said Atty. Michael Rossi, who represents Benefit Services.

When the contract was bid, it was awarded to Professional Risk Management of Boardman, which offered to do the job for $14,500.

The contract has stayed with Professional Risk Management, though it has been rebid annually. The cost this year is $35,800, officials say.

Last year, Robert Carr mobilized an effort to remove commissioners James Tsagaris and Joseph Angelo, and former Commissioner Michael O'Brien, from office following the discovery of corruption in county purchasing.

The impeachment effort was stalled by the complexity of the law governing the removal of public officials.




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