By BRENDA J. LINERT
WARREN - First Place Financial Corp. board member and former bank president Steven Lewis said Friday that he was "in such a different camp" from other members of the board of directors that he had no choice but to resign.
In anticipation of Friday's First Place Bank's sale to Talmer Bancorp., Lewis this week sent a letter to Chairman Sam Roth and Corporate Secretary Craig Carr resigning his board seat immediately.
Lewis had been fired April 20 as the top management official at First Place Bank and then was subsequently removed as a member of the bank's board of directors in May. However, his seat on the parent company board remained, despite a lawsuit Lewis filed in June against the company stemming from his firing and alleging breach of contract.
Lewis' letter of resignation was submitted Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
''I am compelled to take this step due to a separation of philosophies as to strategic direction for the company. It is with extreme regret that I sever my last tie with the First Place organization. My compassion for the shareholders, the staff, our history together, and the strong relationships that we built with the communities served will always be the foundation of my career,'' Lewis wrote.
''They are all going in one direction, and I didn't agree with it,'' Lewis said Friday, when reached by phone. ''It reached a point where I was in such a different camp.''
He declined to elaborate further, noting he still has a pending lawsuit against the company.
''The staff at the bank has been incredibly loyal, and people that I have worked with many, many years. They have worked so hard through this process,'' Lewis said.
Roth, also reached Friday, said after Lewis' removal from the bank board and with the Talmer sale transaction pending, he believes Lewis thought the time was right to step down.
According to the Talmer-First Place purchase agreement, three seats on the Talmer Board of Directors will be filled by First Place directors.
Lewis said he is unsure where his future lies, but noted just this week he that began testing the waters by circulating some resumes and networking for a job around other parts of the state. A non-compete clause in his contract bans him from working in the banking industry within 50 miles of Warren.
He said he has been doing consulting work and is part owner of Sawgrass condominium complex in Howland. Lewis said he also might enjoy exploring housing market opportunities burgeoning with the oil and natural gas industry growth.