By Marc Kovac
The lawyer, who also serves as an Austintown trustee, faces possible suspension Monday.
COLUMBUS — Atty. Warren “Bo” Pritchard made himself scarce when needed by his clients and took thousands of dollars in fees without completing promised legal services, according to documents filed by the Mahoning County Bar Association with the Ohio Supreme Court.
In an 88-page filing Thursday, the bar association alleges multiple incidents of misconduct, ranging from clients who paid hundreds of dollars up front for services they never received to others in which Pritchard failed to show up for court appearances or make timely case filings.
Attempts to reach Pritchard on Friday were unsuccessful. His listed office phone was disconnected, and his cellular number was not accepting voicemail. Court documents note the bar association’s comparable unsuccessful attempts to reach Pritchard as part of the filing process.
“Respondent acquires new clients by making various promises, obtains advance legal fees for services to be performed and subsequently provides minimal or no legal services,” according to the complaint. “Respondent fails to respond to reasonable inquiries by his clients and, as a result, his conduct caused financial hardship or harm to his clients and in some cases a loss of legal rights.”
It added, “[Pritchard] has engaged and continues to engage in a course of conduct that poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public and that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Pritchard was admitted to practice law in Ohio in 1982, but he failed to register with the Ohio Supreme Court in September, as required. He has until Monday to pay a $400 fee to bring his registration up to date.
“If he doesn’t register by Monday, he is suspended,” said high court spokesman Bret Crow.
Pritchard is also an Austintown Township trustee up for re-election Tuesday.
The bar association began looking into issues with Pritchard in April, when William DiRenzo filed a complaint alleging misconduct.
According to court documents, Pritchard sold DiRenzo a property on state Route 46 in Austintown Township in early 2006, then offered to sell him an adjoining parcel.
DiRenzo subsequently provided a $28,000 check for the latter, payable to Michael B. Dockry, Austintown Township administrator — a licensed attorney who “was previously a partner of or shared office space with respondent,” according to documents. DiRenzo later submitted an additional $1,500 check for the property.
But for months, DiRenzo was unable to obtain a deed and repeatedly contacted Pritchard. He later determined that the property in question was owned by someone else.
“To date, Attorney Pritchard has failed to either provide the deed of sale to the property in question or return the money to me,” DiRenzo said in an affidavit included with the court filing.
A “steady stream” of complaints about Pritchard has surfaced since the Mahoning County Bar Association began looking into the DiRenzo issue.
“Respondent’s propensity to prey upon his clients poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public and warrants this court’s immediate action,” according to documents.
Pritchard is seeking re-election this week as township trustee; he is one of four candidates vying for two seats. He’s been a trustee for about 15 years.
He served as chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party in the mid-1990s and has run for several political offices in the past, including state representative, county commissioner and county judge.
The Mahoning Bar Association filing was made Thursday. The high court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline next will determine whether there is probable cause to proceed with a hearing in the matter or dismiss the case.
The process can take more than a year to complete, officials say.
Warren ‘Bo’ Pritchard
Among the allegations of misconduct in a filing by the Mahoning County Bar Association with the Ohio Supreme Court against attorney Warren “Bo” Pritchard:
The Bury matter: Earlier this year, Margaret Bury retained Pritchard to assist in a bankruptcy filing, paying him more than $1,000 in advance for the work. Pritchard promised to complete the filing “within a week,” according to documents. But since then, Pritchard has not returned calls, and his phone lines have been disconnected, according to documents. The bankruptcy filing has not yet been made.
The Cenneno matter: In April 2008, Gerald Cenneno retained Pritchard for a breach of contract case against a local church, paying $1,200. The initial filing was made, but subsequent ones were not, and a judgment was later issued against Cenneno in the case.
Pritchard did not make appropriate legal actions in the case or return phone calls to Cenneno, according to documents.
The Yancsurak matter: Pritchard was appointed counsel for the estate of Steve Yancsurak in Columbiana County. He failed to appear before that court for related hearings and was subsequently found in contempt and arrested.
The DiDomenico matter: In September 2007, Amy and Joseph DiDomenico paid Pritchard $1,700 to handle legal proceedings in a dispute with a roofer. After initial filings in the case, Pritchard missed meetings with the DiDomenicos, who attempted to contact him, with no success. Pritchard missed multiple filings and court appearances in the case afterward. During a meeting with him in March of this year, Pritchard told the couple, “he was going through a divorce, his wife had left him and his files were intentionally disorganized and/or tampered with,” according to documents.
The Lorent matter: In April, Evelyn Sue Lorent paid Pritchard $1,300 for legal advice related to a bankruptcy filing and another issue. She was unable to reach the attorney afterward.
The Hovanes matter: In mid-2008, Carol Hovanes paid Pritchard $1,300 for legal advice related to a bankruptcy filing and a foreclosure action. After making an initial court filing, Pritchard admitted that he forgot to make the bankruptcy filing. Hovanes could not reach Pritchard afterward.
The Corll Matter: In mid-2008, Duane and Tracie Corll paid Pritchard $1,300 to assist in a bankruptcy filing. Pritchard later lost their files. It took him months to make the initial filing, and he later missed court hearings. Their bankruptcy was turned down due to a failure to file required information, which had been provided to Pritchard.
Source: Mahoning County Bar Association filing with the Ohio Supreme Court.