A lawsuit was filed on Dec. 30 in Vinton County Common Pleas Court by Vinton Industries against the Vinton County Commissioners and the Vinton County Board of Development Disabilities (VCBDD) regarding occupancy of the county-owned building at 31835 State Route 93, north of McArthur.

VCBDD currently continues to maintain offices in a portion of that building. However, earlier in the year, Vinton Industries vacated a different portion of the building. The Vinton County Commissioners have announced their intention to move the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office into the portion formerly occupied by Vinton Industries as soon as possible. The commissioners have expressed safety-related concerns about the continued occupancy of the historic Sheriff’s Office building located next to the courthouse.

Reportedly, there is a possibility that Common Pleas Judge James P. Salyer may recuse himself from hearing the case, but he has not announced that decision yet.

As for the lawsuit, it is broken down into five claims: Breach of contract; failure to provide notice (in this case an eviction); Replevin (seized goods restored to their owners); conversion (changing or causing change); and tortious interference (a third party causing economic harm to a business).  

At issue is why -- either voluntary or involuntary -- Vinton Industries left the county-owned VCBDD building and the way a related lease was handled. Most of the VCBDD Building is now empty, except for VCBDD office workers while the move of the Sheriff’s Office there is awaited.

In the lawsuit, Vinton Industries claims that the defendants violated a lease agreement, which in its view, remained valid through Dec. 31, 2020, as it claims the defendants did not provide any written notice to non-renew the lease agreement before the notification deadline date for non-renewal of Nov. 1, 2019.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vinton Industries stated it temporarily ceased operations at the State Route 93 building in March 2020. On Sept. 3 VCBDD sent a certified letter to Vinton Industries, notifying Vinton Industries that the lease was being terminated and to determine a time for Vinton Industries to remove its property from the building. On Sept. 10, Vinton Industries stated it was “constructively evicted” by VCBDD when the locks were changed on the building.

As a result of its legal action, Vinton Industries is asking the court to grant an order granting Vinton Industries immediate possession of its personal property still in the State Route 93 building as well as $25,000 in damages for “lost income” resulting from Vinton Industries not being able to continue “previously established business relationships with long-term clients.”

Both Vinton Industries and the Vinton County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Payne has issued views on the lawsuit to The Telegram. Both parties have different accounts on an ongoing situation that has resulted in the legal action.

Vinton Industries Operations Manager Jason Farmer said the lawsuit will "get these issues out in the open." He added the courts will be able to decide property and accounting issues, including disagreements over the lease and notifications.

Vinton Industries Attorney Ryan Shepler from Logan issued an official release for the media regarding the lawsuit. 

“Vinton Industries has occupied the building located at 31835 State Route 93 in McArthur as its headquarters and has served Vinton County clients for more than 30 years,” the release stated. “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vinton County Board of Commissioners, and the Vinton County Board of Developmental Disabilities, without notice, illegally changed the locks to the building, preventing us from serving our county's residents.”

 The Vinton Industries statement continued: “We have filed a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners, and the Board of Developmental Disabilities to formally address this misconduct. We have moved our operations to 30970 Industrial Park Drive north in McArthur where we will continue to serve our clients during the pendency of this case.” 

Vinton County Prosecuting Attorney Payne is surprised the lawsuit was filed and also responded with a statement to The Telegram. He is of the opinion Vinton Industries left the property voluntarily and later welcomed the prospect of the Sheriff’s Office moving into their vacated space. The Prosecutor is meeting with the Commissioners and other parties on the matter and Payne is hopeful the matter can be settled before it runs its full course in court.

“We are saddened they (Vinton Industries) felt the need to take this issue into litigation,” said Payne. “We do not feel that in any way, the defendants legally violated any contract law or any other statutes. They did nothing, as far as violating any type of lease agreement in order to get that property. It was only because Vinton Industries decided, on their own, they were moving out of that property.”

Both sides have concern for the Sheriff’s Office personnel and believe new quarters for them are necessary. 

“Hopefully, we get resolved and get the Sheriff's Department into a more appropriate location,” said Payne.

Farmer also says a quality Sheriff’s Office location is important to Vinton Industries as well. He explained they are turning to the legal system to resolve issues with the VCBDD and the county, but do not want to hamper law enforcement operations.