ShareThis Page

Jeannette to pay Trigona in installments, ending feud

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A long-running and expensive legal feud between the city of Jeannette and a local businessman is over.

Council voted unanimously last week to approve a structured settlement with Frank Trigona who sued Jeannette in 2007 because council adopted an ordinance denying him occupancy permits for his rental properties because he owed the city taxes.

The city will have to spend $178,000 from the current budget to pay the settlement. It already has paid more than $34,000 in legal fees defending itself against the suit.

“It's over,” said city attorney Scott Avolio as he explained the details to council.

Trigona also is happy a deal was reached.

“It's a long time coming,” he said. “I'm glad it's over. The judge was fair to me, but the city was wrong. I got money because the city was wrong.”

Under the terms of the deal, Trigona's attorney, Robert Lightcap of Latrobe, will receive $140,000 in legal fees plus $13,200 in costs.

Trigona will receive $25,000 this year; $30,000 in 2014 and again in 2015; and another $25,000 in 2016, said Avolio.

“It's a huge monkey off our back,” said councilman Bill Bedont.

Bedont, who is the city finance chairman, declined to comment after the meeting when asked if the city has the cash on hand to make this year's payments to meet the settlement requirements.

Bedont also chose to forgo his typical monthly finance report during the council meeting and said he will explain why at the next regular meeting, when he plans to give a full finance update.

The agreement calls for the city to exonerate Trigona for the $11,000 in taxes that he owes on two properties that triggered the lawsuit. The city also will not impose any taxes on Trigona's properties for 2014 and the following year, according to Avolio.

The money will not immediately go to either Trigona or Lightcap, Avolio added.

Instead, the money will be deposited with Westmoreland County Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. because two banks have filed claims against the settlement for loans that Trigona failed to repay.

First National Bank in February asked the city to halt payments because Trigona borrowed $715,000 that he never fully repaid. Dollar Bank in August filed an action against the city seeking the settlement and legal fees to repay a $75,000 loan Trigona made in 2003, according to court records.

Trigona sued the city in 2007 when council refused to issue occupancy permits for his properties and passed an ordinance banning permits for any landlord who was in arrears in their taxes. Trigona sued, arguing he lost rental income.

A county judge overturned the ordinance. The city appealed and lost. Then a board of viewers assessed the damages and a trial was held earlier this year to determine the amount of damages the city owed Trigona.

After McCormick entered a judgment against the city, Trigona filed an action to force the city to pay the award and McCormick ordered Jeannette to settle with Trigona even if council had to raise taxes, borrow money or sell its assets.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com. Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.