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White Oak no-kill shelter attorney appeals civil decision

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:06 a.m.

White Oak Animal Safe Haven has been ordered to pay $9,789.40 in a civil action filed by Youghiogheny Country Club with an area magistrate.

The White Oak no-kill shelter is appealing the July 1 ruling by Forward Township Magisterial District Judge Beth S. Mills to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. The shelter's attorney is seeking an arbitrator to settle the issue.

The country club in Elizabeth Township sought $10,002.04 in a claim filed with Mills on May 20. Reportedly, more than $8,000 of that amount was owed prior to the 2012 Fido Ball, the last time that annual fundraiser was held at the country club.

“Since May of 2011, invoices for the corporate membership were mailed to all three individuals at their homes and the WOASH,” Mills said on Tuesday in an email. “An invoice for one of the parties was signed by Ina Jean Marton for the amount of $8,702.86.”

Marton, White Oak's mayor since 2004, founded the no-kill animal shelter in 2002.

At the July 1 hearing before Mills, club officials testified that the shelter agreed to make monthly payments on the account but stopped after just a few installments.

Country club co-owner and president John Goodram testified there were several meetings to resolve the outstanding balance and the club wanted to help the animal shelter because it is a charity.

Country club controller and social director Tawnya Rockwell testified that the amount owed covered several special events. She said shelter officers were told they had to make a significant payment on the bill.

“The membership which incurred the costs was a corporate membership for which three individuals had signatory power: Ina Jean Marton, Frank Sabolcik and Sue Galaski,” the judge said.

Galaski, an area funeral director, is on the animal shelter's board.

Sabolcik joined the shelter in May 2010 and rose to become vice president and manager before leaving in September 2012.

“Although it was a corporate membership, the membership was used on a personal basis by all three individuals for expenses unrelated to (the shelter),” Mills said.

Sabolcik allegedly spent more than $10,000 at the club.

He was arrested by county police on Aug. 8, 2013, and is accused of stealing $73,000 from the no-kill animal shelter along Lincoln Way. He is free on $5,000 bond pending trial on felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and receiving stolen property scheduled for Sept. 8 before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski.

Marton said she and Galaski could not comment until they consult with their attorney.

Neither attorneys Arnold V. Plum for the country club, Barry J. Palkovitz for the White Oak shelter nor Sabolcik's attorney Ryan Tutera were available for comment.

After Rockwell testified the shelter was owed a credit of $403.14, the judge allowed $9,599.90 of the country club's claim and added $189.50 in court costs to the judgment.

The shelter filed its appeal for arbitration on July 9. No date has been set for a hearing.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.