By Ed Runyan
Former Niles funeral director Robert P. McDermott has filed an appeal of the permanent revocation of his funeral director’s license and funeral home license.
The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors revoked the licenses July 9 after it found that McDermott had misappropriated more than $150,000 in pre-paid funeral expenses for more than 50 customers at his Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home at 614 Warren Ave.
McDermott has testified that he intends to honor all of the unfunded prepaid accounts by providing funeral services at no additional cost to the customers.
But the board has expressed concern over whether McDermott will be able to make good on that promise, given the fact that he also testified that he and the funeral home are in “dire financial straits,” and he has filed for bankruptcy.
At a hearing, McDermott admitted to placing money for the pre-paid funeral arrangements in the funeral home’s business operations instead of in an appropriate institution or insurance company, as required by law, the board said in documents filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
“He attributed his wrongdoing to poor management and oversight of the funeral home’s business operations,” the embalmers and funeral directors board said.
The board added that prepaid funeral expenses is “an area that is ripe for abuse and unlawful activity,” requiring funeral directors to be “absolutely scrupulous in handling [pre-paid] funds, because it is not theirs until the time of need.”
McDermott testified that he relinquished control of the funeral home to licensed funeral director Thomas Kinnick in October 2012, but it’s not known whether Kinnick is still working with McDermott customers.
A call to the funeral home was not returned.
In permanently revoking the licenses, the board also found that McDermott was unprofessional in showing up late to a funeral service, miscommunicating with a family regarding payment for an urn and not providing a statement of goods and services for a service in May 2011.
McDermott had been a licensed funeral director in Ohio dating back to 1985, and the McDermott funeral home had been licensed since 1998.
On July 24, McDermott, through Atty. James Ries, appealed the license revocations in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court and asked Judge Peter Kontos for a stay of the execution of the license revocations while the appeal is pending.
On Aug. 6, an attorney for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office representing the embalmer and funeral directors board, said one reason McDermott’s disciplinary action should not be delayed is because there is little chance of him being successful on appeal.
Judge Kontos has yet to rule in the case.