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Youngstown settles AT&T lawsuit

YOUNGSTOWN — The city settled a lawsuit filed by AT&T, which inadvertently sent Youngstown a $50,834.50 check cashed more than four years ago, for less than half the amount.

The city agreed to pay $24,995 to the company to resolve the lawsuit filed March 19, 2020. In its lawsuit, AT&T acknowledged “to its chagrin” that an “accounting error” on its part resulted in the company sending a $50,834.50 check April 6, 2017, to the city, which was cashed six days later.

AT&T provided the city with telecommunications and internet service from 2006 until the city requested it be discontinued April 1, 2017.

Adam Buente, the city’s senior assistant law director, said: “Any time you can settle a case for half of the exposure, it’s a good day for the law department and the city taxpayers.”

Patrick Akers, a Denver, Colo., attorney representing AT&T, referred comment to the company’s corporate office. An AT&T spokesman said the company doesn’t have a comment on the settlement.

In the lawsuit, AT&T contended it issued a revised bill and “on multiple occasions telephoned and requested” a refund. “Unfortunately, AT&T’s requests were met with no avail or cooperation from the” city.

Youngstown filed a countersuit against the company contending it “deliberately and unnecessarily overcomplicated (the) city’s phone services to convert from digital to analog and ultimately back to digital — all of which was a ploy for AT&T to bill (the) city as much as it could.”

The city also claimed AT&T “routinely engaged in deceptive billing practices that deprived (the) city of the opportunity to review its services,” including charging for an internet service the city never requested and didn’t use.

“Their billing system was so torturous that it was ineffective and quite frankly, illegal,” Buente said.

The city also argued the lawsuit was filed past the statute of limitations in the contract with AT&T. The company sought to dismiss the countersuit for the same reason.

The two sides initially settled on the city paying half of the bill, which would be $25,417.25.

But any agreement of more than $25,000 has to first get approval from city council, which could have taken a few months, Buente said.

Instead, AT&T agreed to the $24,995 settlement, which was approved July 22 by the city’s board of control.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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