YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Attorneys representing M.J. Joseph Development Co. in its legal dispute with the city have requested that a court grant an emergency status conference after a magistrate ruled the company must produce documents to the city’s attorneys by next week.
“Plaintiffs will be unable to comply without further clarification from the court,” according to a filing by attorneys Justin Markota and Brian Kopp.
The motion filed Friday contains a proposed entry that takes into consideration requests from both parties regarding a declaratory judgment in the case.
In May 2021, M.J. Joseph filed a complaint in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court seeking a declaratory judgment regarding provisions contained in two development agreements the parties signed in 2017.
“A judicial declaration regarding the plain language of the contracts will streamline this litigation and relieve the parties from incurring further unnecessary costs and expenses,” the motion reads.
The city countersued the following month, also requesting the court grant declaratory judgment in its favor.
“The time has come to get to the heart of the matter so that the project can move forward,” Kopp said in an email Friday.
In March 2021, the city placed M.J. Joseph Corp. on notice that it was in violation of development agreements it signed with the city related to the Chill-Can project, a proposed $20 million project on the East Side that is intended to manufacture the world’s first self-chilling can.
The city demanded the company make good on its promise to create 237 jobs at the site by August of 2021 and finish the project or it would take action to reclaim the land and recoup public money that was used to support the venture.
So far, little or no jobs have been created more than five years after ground was broken on the project. Three unfinished buildings stand on the property.
The city is seeking $2.8 million and return of the land, citing breach of contract.
In February, the city filed motions seeking sanctions against the M.J. Joseph, alleging it has failed to comply with document requests the city first submitted in September.
These documents include financial statements, tax documents, identities of the project’s owners, communications and any expenses related to the project.
On March 9, Magistrate Dennis Sarisky ruled that M.J. Joseph must turn over specific documents covering these issues within seven days of the order. The city’s request for sanctions is tabled until the discovery process could be completed, the order stated.
Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian says the documents are important so the city can prepare its case for trial, which is set for Oct. 17.
“Unfortunately, they’ve played games with this community for years,” he says. “It appears they’re trying to block our preparation.”
The motion filed Friday by M.J. Joseph requesting a status conference says otherwise. “This request is made in the interest of justice and not for the purpose of undue delay.”
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.