YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Lawyers for the vacant Chill-Can plant on the East Side have seven days to file briefs explaining why they should not be sanctioned.
Magistrate Dennis Sarisky gave the deadline Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court following a hearing where the lawyers for the city are asking that more than $700,000 be awarded as sanctions because they claim the company has not responded to requests for discovery.
The plant, between the Madison Avenue and Himrod Avenue expressways, has been vacant since the ground was broken in 2016. It was supposed to manufacture self-chilling cans for the beverage industry.
The city filed a lawsuit in May 2021 to get back city funds that were used for the project, which was first proposed under the administration of former Mayor John McNally IV.
In November, Judge Maureen Sweeney affirmed a ruling by Magistrate Sarisky that the company failed to live up to its promises of creating jobs and awarded the city $1.5 million in grant funds used for the project.
In March, the city filed its motion for sanctions, saying the company has ignored repeated orders by courts to provide discovery materials requested by the city.
Attorney Thomas Hall, representing the city, told Magistrate Sarisky that sanctions are necessary because that is the only way to get the company to respond to the city’s requests.
“It’s apparent that court orders won’t do it,” Hall said.
Hall said the city has even offered to allow them an extension to file the documents they have asked for later, but the company never responded.
Brian Kopp, arguing on behalf of Chill-Can, said the city is not entitled yet to the materials they have requested yet because the case has not been set for a trial to determine damages. He said once the trial is held the city can then receive the materials they requested.
Copp also said some of the requests by the city are too broad and some items are not readily available and have to be searched for.
Magistrate Sarisky, however, said that he doesn’t understand the holdup.
“I don’t understand why we have to have six motions or requests for discovery,” Magistrate Sarisky said.
Copp said Chill-Can wants to settle the case but lawyers for the city refuse to enter into those discussions.
“We can’t get a five-second conversation,” Copp said.
Magistrate Sarisky said the company has seven days to respond to the city’s request for sanctions and he will take the matter under advisement.