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Ohio pulls its motion to void county's purchase of property



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Other legal obstacles still stand in the county's way.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The state has withdrawn its motion to void Mahoning County's purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place -- the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.

The withdrawal removes a legal hurdle in the path of converting that building to a county office complex.

In a notice filed late Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here, the Ohio attorney general's office said bankruptcy trustee Andrew W. Suhar has provided documentation to allow the attorney general's charitable law section to review the transaction. And the attorney general's office "has investigated the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the emergency sale."

The notice, filed by Gregory J. Poulos, deputy attorney general, says broader marketing of the Oakhill property "might have been appropriate."

The notice adds, however: "Given the debtor's financial inability to manage the property for even a few days, recision at this point would only force evictions for the existing tenants, lower the property's resale value and harm the charitable purposes of the debtor."

Court approval

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kay Woods had approved the county's purchase of Oakhill on July 27. Oakhill's previous owners, the nonprofit Southside Community Development Corp., filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy May 3.

Poulos had earlier complained that Suhar didn't comply with a state law that required 20 days advance notice to Poulos' office before the sale was consummated.

Poulos filed, and later said he'd withdraw, a motion to compel disclosure to his office of financial information concerning the sale. Poulos had said a complaint to the AG's office triggered his inquiry -- but he didn't know who had complained.

The county intends to move its Department of Job and Family Services from quarters it rents from the Cafaro Co. at Garland Plaza, 709 N. Garland Ave., to the Oakhill building, 345 Oak Hill Ave. The county's building commission is expected to choose an architect to design JFS' new quarters at Oakhill when it meets at 9 a.m. Monday in the county commissioners' office.

Hurdles remain

Other legal hurdles the county must still overcome are taxpayers' and breach of lease suits the Cafaro Co. filed against it in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, which Visiting Judge Richard M. Markus has set for trial next year.

The county also awaits an Ohio Supreme Court decision on an action the commissioners filed to compel County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino to write the 75,000 check to pay for Oakhill -- or explain why he shouldn't do so.

milliken@vindy.com




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