More Time Given for SEOEMS Settlement Talks

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A court magistrate has granted more time for settlement talks to take place in a court action related to the dissolution of Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service.

The additional time was granted in a case that the Jackson County Commissioners filed in the 4th District Court of Appeals against the Lawrence County Commissioners — one of three court cases resulting from the disbanding of SEOEMS.

Athens County filed a similar case in the appeals court against Lawrence County, which has a case pending in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court against Athens and Jackson Counties.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said the settlement discussions involve all three court cases.

“My understanding is that we’re close to a resolution, but we’re just not there yet,” Blackburn said.

He said a telephone conference between attorneys for all three counties is scheduled for January.

In its lawsuit, Jackson County was under an Oct. 16 deadline to file evidence and a brief.

When that deadline passed, Magistrate Sharon Maerten-Moore asked that a joint status report be filed. The report, filed Dec. 16 by Jackson and Lawrence Counties, asked for additional time.

“While progress has been made, efforts to resolve the matter are still underway,” the joint report states. “Specifically, there are ongoing discussions between the parties to this case, representatives for Athens County, and the Ohio Bureau of Worker Compensation related to potential SEOEMS debt.”

Maerten-Moore granted the Jackson County Commissioners until Feb. 14 to file evidence and a brief, if the case is not resolved before then.

In 2012, the Lawrence County Commissioners filed a lawsuit against SEOEMS and the commissioners of both Athens and Jackson Counties, asserting Lawrence County did not get a fair shake financially when SEOEMS dissolved at the end of 2010.

In its original lawsuit, Lawrence County sought more than $1.3 million from SEOEMS and also asked Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to order Athens County to pay $409,118 to SEOEMS and order Jackson County to pay $304,482 to SEOEMS.

Lawrence County was basically claiming it overpaid for SEOEMS service and sought reimbursement. Also being sought was a share of SEOEMS income that came in after the dissolution and a share of the value of SEOEMS radio towers.

Jackson County and Athens County filed separate actions in the 4th District Court of Appeals asserting that Lawrence County had not paid its share of SEOEMS bills. The original lawsuits asked the court to require Lawrence County to pay its share of outstanding bills, including $46,333 to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, $17,031 to a medical billing company, $35,835 in Worker’s Compensation premiums and $13,739 to a law firm.