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Fri.,6:36am: Local architects file RICO lawsuit against school district

May 17, 2013
Tribune Chronicle |

LISBON - In addition to a complaint filed with the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, Team 8e Architecture has also filed a racketeering suit under state RICO laws in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against the Beaver Local School District over its plans for the design and construction of a new K-12 school.

The lawsuit is seeking "compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, treble damages in excess of $25,000," plus attorney fees, court costs, expenses and interest.

The suit asserts that Beaver Local engaged in "a pattern of corrupt or racketeering activity" and "the making of false and misleading statements" dating back to 2008, when Thomas A. Madej, president of the Canfield-based architectural firm, says he was first approached by former district superintendent Sandra DiBacco in hopes of securing their services. At the time, BL was planning a campaign for a bond levy toward the construction of a new school facility.

According to the complaint, Team 8e prepared numerous drawings, charts and other materials for the district on the basis of statements by DiBacco indicating that the firm would be compensated for their work upon passage of the levy and that Team 8e was subsequently to be named the official architect for the district. The suit alleges that this pattern continued through the successful levy campaign of 2012, to the official selection of a firm to serve as architects on the project.

Subsequently, Olsavsky Jaminet Architects and Fanning-Howey Associates were chosen by BL and the Ohio School Facilities Commission to fill the role instead. In addition to not being selected, Madej says Team 8e was never compensated for work commissioned by the district. "Our claim is, basically, theft of our services by deception," he said.

Current Beaver Local superintendent Kent Polen and DiBacco are named as co-defendants in the suit, along with district treasurer Robert Barrett, present school board members John Campbell, Bill Croxall and Thomas Wolfe, and past board members Brad Buchheit, Brian McKenzie and Keith Meredith.

Polen said the district has not yet been served documentation pertaining to either suit, making it impossible for him to comment on them. However, he did dispute the assertion of Madej that the district has ignored Team 8e's repeated attempts at correspondence. "My counsel has been in talks with his counsel and himself for the last year," Polen said.

Madej continues to dispute this claim, saying that he's had only a single discussion with attorney John Britton from the law firm of Britton, Smith, Peters and Kalail, which serves as legal counsel for Beaver Local, in July 2012. "Mr. Polen is not telling the truth in regard to there being ongoing communication," he said.

At that time, Madej says the district requested an invoice detailing all services that Team 8e had performed for Beaver Local. He contends that submission of that invoice package is the last contact he has had with district officials. "After that, they were not responsive," Madej said.

Madej says their complaints were submitted to BL counsel through the firm's attorneys on Feb. 25 of this year, with a deadline of March 22, which passed without reply. After consultation with their counsel, Madej says legal action was decided upon as the last resort. "Finally, we decided that we needed to file the suits," he said.

Britton stated that he could not go into the details of the case, having not yet seen the lawsuits. However, he said he is familiar with Madej's claims and expressed confidence that the suits filed by Madej will both be dismissed in court. "He is not entitled to compensation, and we intend to prove that," Britton said.

Britton also countered Madej's statements regarding a lack of communication with district representatives. "I have had numerous and extensive conversations with the owner regarding his claims over the last year," Britton said. "He just doesn't like what I've told him."



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