The attorneys representing Berlin Township filed a response in Delaware County Common Pleas Court to the receiver currently overseeing Fairview Memorial Park, again arguing the township should be given control of the cemetery.
The filing is the latest in an ongoing legal battle over Fairview Memorial Park (5035 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center) between A.C. Strip, a Columbus attorney who was appointed to be the receiver for the cemetery in May 2017 and has been trying to find a buyer for the cemetery ever since, and Berlin Township, who has been seeking control of the cemetery since April of this year.
In July, Berlin Township filed a motion asking that Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley give the title of the cemetery to the township and prevent a sale that Strip was organizing.
Strip responded to this motion on July 31 and opposed giving the title of the cemetery to the township for a variety of reasons, including that giving the cemetery to the township would rob the victims in the case of any recompense; that giving Berlin Township the title would prevent him and his legal team from being properly compensated and arguing that Berlin Township only wants the cemetery now that Strip 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 concluded his response by asking for an oral hearing to be set in the case.
Berlin Township responded to this motion on Aug. 9 and argued again that it should be given the title.
The township, through their attorneys Stephen D. Brown and Christopher A. Rinehart, argued that transferring the cemetery to Berlin may not give the victims any recompense, but it will “end the uncertainty in the minds of the victims as to the long-term viability of the cemetery.”
“There is no doubt the receiver will not continue to maintain the cemetery,” the filing said. “Berlin Township, however, actively maintains and operates cemeteries … While Berlin Township recognizes the efforts of the Receiver to maintain the cemetery, the transfer of the cemetery to Berlin Township will drain the uncertainty. Such transfer should have been completed when Fairview was dissolved but Berlin Township was not made a party to the action by the Receiver, and the cemetery was not transferred upon the dissolution of Fairview.”
The township then argues that the receiver’s time, efforts, and resources would not have been expended if the cemetery had been transferred to them last fall.
The township also said Strip’s motion to sell an 8.32-acre parcel of the property to the Islamic Society of Central Ohio for $130,000 must be denied because it has filed a cross-claim in court.
“Until that cross-claim is resolved, the proposed contract for sale cannot be consummated,” the township’s filing states. “Though important, none of the other issues raised by the Receiver in its Memorandum are relevant to the resolution of Berlin Township’s cross-claim against Fairview.
A hearing had not been set by Wednesday, and no motions have been filed since Aug. 9.
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.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.