If you thought the case of Larry Modic was over, think again.
The man who saw a house he purchased on Manchester Road demolished after legal challenges, house appeals board hearings and even threat of arms is getting some help from the same City Hall that enforced the demolition order.
Mayor Plusquellic told AkronNewsNow this afternoon he wanted "to find justice in some way" for Modic, who purchased the property and house at 1480 Manchester Road for $10,000 with the intention of fixing up the house. It was already on the demolition list when Modic bought the property from previous owner John Hufnagel; it had an appraised value of $69,200 according to records online at the Summit County Fiscal Office.
Plusquellic directed his law department to drop a frivolous lawsuit motion filed against Modic's attorney, Warner Mendenhall, and refocus efforts to determine who was responsible for Modic's purchase of the property and whether full disclosure was made by Hufnagel at the time of sale that the house was in the housing appeals process. State law provides sellers must disclose problems with properties at the time of sale. The Mayor says he is concerned there's a chance Modic is a victim and should be made whole, or that the City may be in a liable position legally over the story which garnered headlines last month.
Mendenhall responded the decision to drop the frivilous lawsuit complaint was a "moment of common sense" but then turned aside the plan to use city attorneys to determine how to assist Modic. "Modic does not need or want the City's "help," Mendenhall wrote in an email statement to local media. "He has a legal team in place to pursue all avenues of recovery." Mendenhall says they will continue to challenge the city proceedures on demolition of buildings.
City officials have said the property was not habitable; the city's housing appeals board held two hearings with Modic regarding the condition of the house but he failed to appear for a third meeting. At that time the appeals process turned into a demolition process but it got ugly when Modic indicated he was armed and would harm anyone coming on the property. Police were on hand when the home was demolished after Modic was given time to remove belongings.
Plusquellic wants City Council to approve legislation that would allow city attorneys to pursue the case and determine responsibility for the property, something that requires Council approval.
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(City of Akron - news release) Today, Mayor Don Plusquellic has directed his law department to withdraw its motion regarding the frivolous lawsuit. There are hundreds of active cases at any given time, and the City’s lawyers file motions to protect the taxpayers’ interests without notifying the Mayor. In this particular case, the attorneys filed this motion without the Mayor’s knowledge and contrary to his direction to instead file an action against the previous owner and his agents, who may have sold the house to Modic without notifying the new owner about the already scheduled housing appeals board hearing.
On Monday, the Mayor will introduce to council an ordinance that authorizes the City to file on Modic’s behalf an action to determine once and for all who should be responsible for turning over a home that was already in housing appeals board process without notifying Modic.
The Mayor has made it clear from the beginning, that if Modic is right, and Modic did not know that the property he bought had active housing orders, then his attorney should have filed an action on Modic’s behalf against the seller and his agents. If Modic’s attorney is not interested in getting real justice for Modic, then the Mayor believes that the City can step in and take action against the responsible parties, and the Mayor will ask for City council’s approval immediately to file the action.
Additionally, the Mayor will be urging council to pass the legislation currently before it, requiring property owners to provide written notice of pending building and/or housing code violations prior to the transfer or sale of property in Akron.
Updated 8:20 a.m. with response from Modic attorney Warner Mendenhall