Council to consider $110K property-destruction payment

YOUNGSTOWN — City council today will consider authorizing a $110,936.74 payment for a lost court case in which items were removed improperly and destroyed by a city-hired contractor from a South Avenue storage warehouse in preparation for a demolition.

The agenda for today’s city council meeting seeks to give the board of control the authority to make the payment from the environmental sanitation fund to Carl A. and Patrice Ross for the destruction of items taken more than three years ago from their storage warehouse at 905 South Ave.

The couple filed a complaint Nov. 30, 2020, in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against the city for “forcibly” entering the South Avenue location and removing several items including tools for their construction business, personal property, an antique automobile and a snowmobile.

In a June 6 court decision, Judge R. Scott Krichbaum upheld the March 14 ruling of Magistrate Timothy G. Welsh in favor of the Rosses and against the city, fire Chief Barry Finley and Michael Durkin, the city’s code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent.

The decision gave the Rosses $54,588 for property that was destroyed — the couple was seeking $126,940 — as well as $40,676.35 in legal fees and the rest — $15,672.39 — for 5% annual interest since Nov. 25, 2020, when the property was removed, as well as the cost of the court action.

“It was for far less than what they wanted and we had no valid argument to appeal,” said Lou D’Apolito, the city’s interim law director. “Some of the property was returned and some was lost.”

D’Apolito said he didn’t know why the city’s insurance company didn’t cover any of the costs.

The city filed objections on March 28 to Welsh’s ruling, but Krichbaum wrote they “were devoid of any specificity or foundation.” The city was given until May 30 to supplement its objections and failed to do so, according to Krichbaum’s ruling.

Donald Duda, one of the attorneys for the Rosses, said: “My clients are happy they’re going to receive compensation.”

He added: “At the end of the day, the city was unsuccessful and there was a judgment. An appeal wouldn’t be fruitful.”

Finley gave a Jan. 28, 2021, deposition that on June 6, 2020, he received a call from Durkin to look at 905 South Ave. After gong to the location, Finley said he determined the roof had collapsed and on June 9, 2020, issued an emergency demolition order. However, it wasn’t until Nov. 25, 2020, that the materials were taken out of the property by a city-hired contractor that was going to demolish the structure.

The Rosses filed the case Nov. 30, 2020, in court and Krichbaum approved the temporary restraining order to stop the demolition, which was scheduled for the next day.

During Carl A. Ross’ testimony in this case, there was “significant confusion … regarding who actually owned the property,” so it was confiscated, Krichbaum’s decision reads.

Ross testified that about 70% to 80% of the property was owned by C. Ross Builders LLC, which wasn’t a party to this litigation, and he “was guessing” that 50% to 70% of the property was purchased prior to the limited liability corporation’s formation, according to the judge’s ruling.

Also, Ross’ wife testified that there was $23,580 worth of items for her children from her deceased father including toys, clothing as well as model trains and airplanes, Krichbaum’s decision reads.

Welsh determined the cost of the personal property lost at $54,588 and Krichbaum agreed.

Welsh decided that 30% of the $103,360 worth of property lost was owned by the Rosses and gave them full credit for the $23,580 in items that were given to their children.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.85/week.

Subscribe Today