The attorney overseeing the operations of Fairview Memorial Park, 5035 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center, filed a response to Berlin Township’s motion to assume ownership of the cemetery.

A.C. Strip, a Columbus attorney, was appointed to be the receiver for Fairview in May 2017 and has been overseeing the cemetery’s affairs and attempting to find a buyer for the cemetery ever since Delaware County Judge David M. Gormley ordered that the corporation that controlled the cemetery be dissolved last fall.

On Monday, Strip filed a motion responding to a July motion filed by Berlin Township that asked Gormley to give the township the title to the cemetery and prevent a sale that Strip had been organizing.

In his motion, Strip argues that the court ordered him to resolve the cemetery’s affairs, and he added Berlin Township only wants the cemetery after he has “brought order out of total chaos.”

“It is interesting to note that this matter was brought to the attention of the court and the Receiver named on May 22, 2017, thus the Township Trustees have been well aware of the receivership,” Strip wrote. “Only in June and July 2018 (more than a year later) do they come forward claiming an interest in the proceedings. Now that all the leg work has been done, the stress incurred, the cemetery orderly and maintained, all victims notified and dealt with, does a third party step in and wish to be handed the cemetery property.”

Strip also opposed the township’s motion, because he said it would be unfair to the victims affected by the cemetery.

“Should the Court consider the demand of the Township Trustees, it would leave all of the victims without any regress or likelihood of any recompense,” Strip wrote. “Fairness dictates that the obligation of the Receiver (and perhaps the goal of the Court) is to provide as much distribution to victims as possible.”

Strip said his potential sale of an 8.32-acre parcel of the cemetery to the Islamic Society of Central Ohio would have yield a profit of $130,000, which would lead to some compensation of the victims.

Strip also opposed the motion on the grounds that giving Berlin Township the cemetery would not result in proper compensation for him and his team who have managed the cemetery.

“The Receiver has expended an inordinate amount of time, effort, incurred stress and strain, had weekends, vacations and holidays interrupted with ‘cemetery business’ and has brought order out of total chaos,” Strip said. “…yet, the trustees, in their responses, make no mention of any compensation for services having been rendered. Certainly the Court, the public and the victims have benefited from the receiver’s activities and they shouldn’t go unnoticed or unrewarded.”

Strip concludes by asking for an oral hearing to be set in the case.

A hearing had not been set by Friday.

The previous owners of the cemetery, Theodore and Arminda Martin, are currently serving prison terms after pleading guilty to multiple counts of theft for selling items at the cemetery but never delivering or ordering them.

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.