Boone County fire district files lawsuit over unpaid rent

Thursday, October 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — After a year and a half of trying to negotiate a solution, the Boone County Fire Protection District will go to court to try to collect unpaid rent from a state fire association.

Boone County Fire Protection District board member John Gordon said the district filed the breach of contract lawsuit Aug. 19 because it couldn't reach an "appropriate settlement" with the Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts.

The lawsuit states that the association, which was housed in the Fire District's  headquarters starting in 2001, owes the Fire District $20,000 in rent plus interest  because the association did not give proper written notice before moving out in August 2007.

Gordon and fire board chairman Dave Griggs said former Chief Steve Paulsell made a "handshake agreement" with the association in 1999, offering an office, telephone and support staff at the Fire District headquarters for $20,000 per year.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed on Sept. 15, the association stated that a lease never existed because there was no written contract.

Pat Cronan, the association’s attorney until May 2008, said the association did not pay the fees because the Fire District had mismanaged the association’s funds in 2005 and 2006, according to previous Missourian reports.

The Fire District has not paid its dues to the association since 2007 because of the dispute.

Griggs said the goals of the association are important, and it’s "appropriate" that the Fire District is a member.

"It’s also appropriate that they stand behind the agreement," he said. "So at this point, we’re at an agreement to disagree."

Tim Jones, the association’s current attorney, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

John Sam Williamson was the only Fire District board member of the five to vote against filing the lawsuit at a closed meeting held Aug. 18.

A motion hearing on the lawsuit is set for 9 a.m. on Oct. 23 in Boone County Circuit Court.

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