By Ed Runyan
The officer handling the Trumbull County Board of Health hearing regarding the license of septic installer Berry Meadows recommends that the board dismiss most of the charges against Meadows.
Atty. Ron Alexander of Stow wrote in a report submitted last week that he also recommends that the board conclude that Meadows did not commit the remaining charges.
The hearing took place regarding the Trumbull County Health Department’s contention that Meadows, whose Leavittsburg company is called Digging Dirt, should lose a license to install septic systems in Trumbull County because of problems with some of his installations.
Alexander’s recommendations are not binding, said Dr. James Enyeart, Trumbull County health commissioner, and Atty. David Engler, who represents Meadows.
The board of health likely will take action regarding Meadows’ license at its next meeting, Dr. Enyeart said, tentatively set for 7 p.m. March 20.
Jack Pierson of Akron, attorney for the board of health, called Rebecca Fugitt, program manager for the Ohio Department of Health, as its primary witness to testify regarding several of Meadows’ septic installations. Fugitt said seven of the 11 Digging Dirt installations investigated from Sept 1, 2010, to April 30, 2011, “floated” out of the ground as a result of water being under them.
Fugitt said that “is a large number of violations.”
But in his report, Alexander said he could not allow Fugitt’s testimony because she had not personally inspected any of the installations, did not personally prepare the reports she used in describing the installations, and no one had testified as to who took the photographs presented as evidence.
The hearing officer also said the board of health’s decision Nov. 16, 2012, to end the hearing before Meadows and Engler had presented any of their witnesses was “a denial of due process, in violation of their rights to a fair hearing under federal and Ohio law.”
Engler said he thinks it is “criminal” that the board of health spent what he estimated to be $75,000 to try to take Meadows’ license away during what he called a “frivolous” administrative hearing. Meadows and Engler maintain that the board’s attempt to revoke Meadows’ license was retaliation for criticizing the Trumbull County Health Department on Meadows’ Facebook site, Trumbull County Septic News.
Dr. Enyeart, meanwhile, says the reason the health board didn’t complete the hearing is because it appeared it could last as long as 10 days and because Meadows didn’t appear ready to answer any questions himself, only ask them. The reason the health board couldn’t provide some of the documentation the hearing officer wanted is because two witnesses, such as product suppliers and installers, were fearful of testifying, Dr. Enyeart said.
The bottom line, he said, is that there were three customers “who were not treated fairly” by Meadows, whose septic systems floated, and Meadows “immediately started pointing fingers at everyone else” for the problem, Enyeart said.
Enyeart said the conflict between the health board and Meadows stems from Meadows’ proposal of an alternative form of septic system that doesn’t use a sand filter, but the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency advised twice not to approve Meadows’ system, so the board didn’t.