Jeannette to pay Trigona in installments, ending feud
By Richard Gazarik and Kristie Linden
Published: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-838-5154.
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