Motion granted in cemetery case

By Glenn Battishill -

The judge overseeing the receivership of Fairview Memorial Park filed a judgment entry Tuesday granting a motion by Berlin Township to be declared an interested party and able to intervene in a potential sale of the cemetery.

Columbus attorney A.C. Strip was appointed to be the receiver for Fairview Memorial Park in May 2017, and he has been overseeing the cemetery’s affairs and looking for a buyer for the cemetery. Strip has been filing regular reports with Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley about the cemetery and his search for a buyer, as well as the cemetery’s affairs.

On April 10, Strip filed a motion asking the court for authority to sell an entire parcel of the cemetery and one part of another parcel to the Islamic Society of Central Ohio for the sum of $130,000. According to court documents, the purchase would involve an 8.32-acre parcel as well as the “Muslim Section” of the cemetery.

However, on April 23, a Motion of Interested Party was filed by Berlin Township asking to intervene in the matter and objecting to the sale.

In the motion, Berlin Township’s attorneys, Stephen D. Brown and Christopher A. Rinehart, argue that because the cemetery is situated in Berlin Township and is not owned or in the care of an incorporated company, the township automatically has a vested interest and should have been a party in the case.

The township’s motion argues that proceeding forward with the sale and case impair the township’s interest.

Strip responded to the township in a motion of opposition filed on May 18. He states the township does not have the standing to object to the sale, and the intervention should be denied, adding that the sale does not materially impact the township.

The township responded to Strip on June 1 and argued that once the Fairview LLC was dissolved, Ohio law vests the title of the property to Berlin Township.

Strip filed another motion on June 4 and asked Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge David Gormley to set a hearing to resolve the matter.

On July 2, Gormley filed a judgment entry and granted the township’s motion to become an interested party.

“The receiver has been marketing the property and is now seeking approval to sell a portion of the cemetery along with another parcel of land. In the event that the whole cemetery is not sold, the ownership and care of the cemetery — in whole or in part — will be vested in the Berlin Township Trustees,” Gormley wrote in his judgment entry.

Gormley cited a 2007 Fifth District Court of Appeals case with similar circumstances and said in that case, the corporation that was responsible for the cemetery was dissolved and the title to the cemetery was then vested in the city of Cincinnati.

“Even the receiver in this case acknowledges that the receivership will end at some point, and if a buyer is not secured for all or part of the cemetery, title to and right of possession of the cemetery will vest in Berlin Township Trustees,” Gormley wrote. “… Berlin Township does have an interest in the property at issue in this case.”

Gormley then granted Berlin Townships’s motion to intervene and said trustees have 14 days to file a response to Strip’s motion to sell part of the cemetery.

Nothing had been filed Tuesday.

The cemetery’s owners, Theodore and Arminda Martin, were charged with felony theft in 2016 for selling items but never delivering them at the cemetery.

Theodore and Arminda Martin were sentenced to five years and four-and-a-half years in prison, respectively, after they pleaded guilty to 14 and 15 theft charges, respectively. They were also ordered last year to pay restitution to 67 victims in the amount of more than $183,000.

By Glenn Battishill

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

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