JFS director fights to stop garnishment

By Peter H. Milliken



Robert E. Bush Jr., Mahoning County’s Job and Family Services director, has gone to court to try to stop the garnishment of his $111,738-a-year salary to pay a 22-year-old rent debt from a former retail business he operated.

On Friday, the county’s payroll department began deducting $730 every two weeks from his salary to pay that debt.

County Payroll Director Thomas Lyden said he will continue making that deduction until the $70,758 debt is paid off or until a judge releases the garnishment order imposed Dec. 17 by Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

In a previous Vindicator story, Bush said, “It was a debt I should have addressed over the years, and I didn’t follow through. Now, all those chickens are coming home to roost.”

Bush’s lawyers, Ronald D. Yarwood and Edward A. Czopur, on Friday filed a complaint for declaratory judgment to block the Cafaro Co. from collecting the debt, which stems from unpaid rent, utilities and common-area maintenance charges for a beauty products supply business Bush operated between 1987 and 1991 at the Cafaro Co.’s McGuffey Mall.

When the Cafaro Co. initially sued to collect the debt, Judge Charles J. Bannon of common pleas court, who is now retired, issued a $14,396 default judgment against Bush in 1991; but the debt mushroomed to $70,758 through more than two decades of compounding interest.

The garnishment began after the mall company May 16 asked that the county be found in contempt of court for neglecting Judge Sweeney’s order for five months.

In Bush’s complaint, which is assigned to Judge James C. Evans, his lawyers seek a court order voiding the 2003 revival of the judgment.

“Plaintiff’s due process rights were violated in not being afforded notice and an opportunity to be heard relative to revival,” Yarwood and Czopur argued in their complaint.

The judgment went dormant Feb. 1, 2001, Bush’s lawyers said, adding that state law requires that a dormant judgment be revived within 10 years after it becomes dormant. More than 10 years have passed since Feb. 1, 2001, they noted.

A status conference in the garnishment case is set for 10:30 a.m. June 26 before Magistrate Eugene Fehr of common pleas court.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out in court,” said Joe Bell, the Cafaro Co.’s director of corporate communications. “It’s just a shame that the original debt wasn’t paid when it should have been.”

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