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Published: Tuesday, 3/1/2005

Consultant sues Evergreen district

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

METAMORA - A consultant who hasn't been paid the $260,000 he says Evergreen Local School District owes him for securing state building funds has sued the district, which reaches from northwestern Lucas County across most of northern Fulton County.

James R. Mustard, who does business as ReSources in west central Ohio's Mercer County, sued the school district, its board of education, and the district treasurer in Fulton County Common Pleas Court.

At issue is payment for work he did in securing Ohio School Facilities Commission funds for Evergreen's recent building projects.

The school board unanimously agreed in 2001 to a contract with Mr. Mustard that, according to the school board's lawyer, Keith Wilkowski, promised Mr. Mustard 1.75 percent of the $14.8 million project.

But Mr. Wilkowski said the school board approved the contract with Mr. Mustard's word that his fees could be paid with state facilities commission funds. District leaders later realized his fees were not an allowable expense for such state money. They have asked Mr. Mustard for records of the time he spent and the work he did on the project, but he has not provided them, Mr. Wilkowski said.

Mr. Mustard did not return messages from The Blade.

His lawsuit says the school board has refused to pay his invoices because the district treasurer has refused to sign a funds-availability certificate. Such a certificate is required by Ohio law in school board contracts. It means that the district has appropriated the money needed for such a purpose and has it in the treasury or is in the process of collecting it.

Mr. Mustard's lawsuit says the district has sufficient funds to pay his contract, and he asks that a judge order the district treasurer, Linda Kidwell, to sign a certificate of available funds.

"The district is trying to hide behind a technicality to avoid paying for services provided," Mr. Mustard's lawyer, Julie A. Schafer of Akron, wrote in a statement about the lack of a funds availability certificate with Mr. Mustard's contract.

"My client entered into a contract with the Evergreen Local School District, which was approved unanimously by the entire board at a public meeting and signed by the superintendent, treasurer, board president, and James Mustard," she wrote. "Subsequent to entering into this contract, Mr. Mustard performed and met all his contractual obligations. Now the board has elected not to pay, hiding behind a technicality in the law."

Mr. Mustard named current school board members Gary Pennington, Julie Carter, Robert Keller, Lee Pfund, and Sue Murry in his suit, although all were not on the board in 2001.

The board's response to the lawsuit is expected to be filed in court in early April; Mr. Wilkowski said he requested an extension from next week's original due date for the district's answer to the lawsuit.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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