WARREN - A judge has taken under advisement the latest written arguments in the lawsuit filed by fired First Place Bank CEO Steven R. Lewis against the bank.
Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan hasn't set a court date yet in the breach of contract case that Lewis filed against bank officials in June after he was terminated April 20 by the boards of First Place Financial Corp. and First Place Bank.
Lewis contends in his suit that under terms of his employment contract with First Place, he is entitled to his full compensation until any dispute is finally resolved.
He said he is also owed accrued unpaid sick leave benefits that he earned after 29 years of employment with the bank.
Lewis said he received a termination notice April 20 that stated his date of termination was May 24. He said he notified bank officials on May 17 that he would be disputing the notice of termination. He filed suit June 27, seeking a preliminary injunction to continue his pay. But no injunction has been issued.
Attorneys for the bank argue that on March 9, 2009, Lewis signed amendments to his employment agreement and the additions to the contract cut off any compensation after the termination.
''Pursuant to the written amendment to the employment agreement, any post-employment payment to Lewis that is considered a 'golden parachute payment' is strictly prohibited under the applicable federal law and regulations. The defendants are participants in the U.S. Department of Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,'' the bank argues in court pleadings.
A golden parachute payment, according to the bank, is defined in the EESA as ''any payment for departure from a TARP recipient for any reason except for payments for services performed or benefits accrued.''
''A TARP recipient must prohibit any golden parachute payment to 'senior executive officers' while the TARP recipient has TARP securities outstanding,'' the bank argues.
Lewis' attorney Thomas Nader argues that TARP rules in effect on March 9, 2009, define a golden parachute payment as ''any payment in the nature of compensation to ... a (senior executive officer) made on account of an applicable severance from employment to the extent the aggregate present value of such payments equals or exceeds an amount equal to three times the SEO's base amount.''
And Nader states that the continued payments to Lewis pending his disputed termination clearly does not exceed three years of his base salary.
Last week, First Place named David G. Cogswell as interim chief credit officer, replacing Lewis.
Lewis joined then-First Federal Savings and Loan of Warren in 1983, and served as chief financial officer from 1985 to 1995. He was executive vice president from 1995 to 1997 before taking over as president in January 1997 at age 38 from retiring Paul Watson.
The company was delisted from the Nasdaq in November after failing to file quarterly and annual financial statements and restatements dating back to its Sept. 30, 2007, quarter due to adjustments in the company's allowance for loan losses.
The losses stem largely from its 2005 acquisition of Southfield, Mich., based Franklin Bancorp. The purchase made First Place Ohio's largest publicly traded thrift with $2.2 billion in assets, but it also saddled the bank with loans that went sour during the global credit crisis that struck in 2007 and worsened through 2008.
In 2009, First Place took $75 million from the federal government's Troubled Assets Relief Program to provide capital to increase lending.
The company, in February 2011, began operating under a supervisory agreement with Office of Thrift Supervision, which said First Place has engaged in "unsafe or unsound practices."