Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
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Energy

Troubled Perrysburg panel maker misses employment-report deadline

EDITOR'S NOTE: This version clarifies action the state may take upon a loan review.

Willard & Kelsey Solar Group, a troubled Perrysburg solar-panel manufacturer, missed the deadline to submit its three-year progress report to the Ohio Department of Development on Tuesday.

The company -- along with more than 800 businesses across the state -- received a two-month extension to submit the report, for which state officials were waiting to determine whether the firm created the 400 jobs outlined in its $5 million loan agreement with department.

"Companies are expected to return reports in a timely fashion," Katie Sabatino, a department of development spokesman, said.

She said that if the company does not turn a report over to the state, the department will review Willard & Kelsey and decide how to proceed.

In January, Willard & Kelsey laid off most of its 80-person work force.

If the state finds the company did not create the jobs specified in the loan agreement, it can increase the interest on the loan repayments. The state also is reviewing whether it could declare the $5 million loan due and seize collateral at Willard & Kelsey's headquarters per the loan agreement.

The state placed a lien on company solar-panel equipment when it crafted the loan agreement in 2009.

The firm could face financial penalties for missing the report deadline, Ms. Sabatino said. Members of the department's staff are to review the situation and make a recommendation on possible fines. Penalties vary and are assessed case by case, she said.

Willard & Kelsey has requested extensions to submit financial reports to the state in the past but hasn't approached the state about receiving an extension in this instance, Ms. Sabatino said.

Michael Cicak, the firm's chief executive officer and chairman of the board, hung up on a Blade reporter Tuesday and did not respond to a subsequent email inquiring about the report.

Mossie Murphy, vice president of development, did not respond to a voice mail left Tuesday. The firm's Maumee-based lawyer, Marvin Robon, did not return an email seeking comment.

In addition to the $5 million loan, Willard & Kelsey has received a $500,000 grant and another $5 million loan from the state.

Allegations that executives were compensated with department of development loan funds were discovered in communications maintained by the company's former CEO, William Mitchell. Those documents, along with Willard & Kelsey banking and financial information kept by Mr. Mitchell, recently were obtained by The Blade.

If true, those payments would be in direct violation of the company's state loan agreement.

Mr. Mitchell, who died in 2011, was fired from Willard & Kelsey in 2009.

In previous interviews with The Blade, Willard & Kelsey executives and Mr. Robon vehemently denied a misuse of state funds.

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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