Cape Girardeau County developmental disabilities board suggests mediation in dispute with VIP

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Cape County Board for Developmentally Disabled has sent the attorney for VIP Industries a letter suggesting a state-certified mediator may be able to help the two feuding groups come to an agreement.

The letter is the latest in a round of letters being exchanged by the two parties after the board stopped funding VIP in late 2010. The board said the decision was made after VIP refused to honor its contract, while the attorney for VIP said his client is entitled to the money.

In early December, VIP sent the board a letter threatening a lawsuit if the company did not start receiving its funding but offered to meet with board members to discuss the issue before pursuing litigation. The board's suggestion of mediation is in response to the offer.

The letter to VIP written by board attorney James Marks said because meetings between the two parties haven't typically been successful, a third-party mediator might be able to help.

Marks said the mediation need not be binding or involve attorneys and that discussions during mediation could be excluded from any future litigation.

Board president Dory Johnson said neither VIP or its attorney John Toma have responded to the letter. Calls to Toma for comment were not returned.

The relationship between the board and VIP became strained last summer following a change in board leadership and examinations of how tax money, nearly $900,000 a year, is spent by the board.

In November. VIP issued a formal demand to the board in an attempt to recover $125,900.16 to pay for utilities, insurance, maintenance, transportation and per diem allowances through Sept. 30.

Formerly known as the SB40 board, the Cape County Board for Developmentally Disabled uses those funds to operate sheltered workshops, residential facilities and other services for the benefit of county residents with disabilities.


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