By Ed Runyan
A lawyer made one allegation after another against Trumbull County Board of Health members and staff in a hearing over whether septic-system installer Berry Meadows should lose his installer’s license.
Atty. David Engler Engler accused the board of acting unfairly by ending the hearing Friday before he and Meadows had called any witnesses.
Engler said the Aug. 10, 2012, notice Meadows received for the hearing said Meadows would “have the opportunity to present witnesses.” Engler said he would be calling Dr. James Enyeart, the health commissioner, and Frank Migliozzi, director of environmental health, among others, to testify Friday.
The hearing began Sept. 28 in the offices of the health board with questioning of Rebecca Fugitt of the Ohio Department of Health, who testified as to Meadows’ conduct as a septic-system installer.
She testified about 14 septic systems between September 2010 and April 2011 that “floated out of the ground,” with half of those being handled by Berry Meadows and his company, Digging Dirt LLC of Leavittsburg. About five other companies installed the other seven.
She referred to a letter from Stark Aeration and Supply of Canton indicating that so many of Meadows’ installations floated because they lacked the proper backfill material. Meadows and Engler countered that Stark Aeration is a competitor of Meadows, so its opinion is tainted.
The hearing resumed Thursday in the county commissioners meeting room at the county administration building, with questioning of Fugitt continuing. Several more witnesses testified Thursday, including two of Meadows’ customers.
On Friday morning, the health board indicated that it was not going to allow any further witnesses to be questioned.
“We are ready to present witnesses, but you have not allowed us,” Engler said.
William Hagood, president of the health board, said he “would rather not” comment on the reason the health board stopped the hearing before allowing Engler to call witnesses. He said the “target” for a decision is January.
Engler accused the board of failing to follow Ohio open-meetings laws, of having been appointed to their positions without proper legal standing, and of acting against Meadows in a vindictive way because of Meadows’ criticism of the health board over the past year.
Meadows and his wife have operated a website on the Internet called Trumbull Septic News that has accused the health department of unethical conduct.
Meadows filed a federal lawsuit against the health department and employees of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office Sept. 10, accusing them of conspiring to have him maliciously prosecuted on theft charges — charges that were later dropped.
The health board’s attorney, Jack Pierson of Akron, said Fugitt’s testimony indicated that Meadows’ track record is “worse than most around the state” and that some customers pursued legal action against Meadows because of their dissatisfaction with his work.
When faced with dissatisified customers, most installers would directly address the problems until they were resolved, Pierson said. “Mr. Meadows has chosen a different path of denial,” Pierson said.