Civil case dismissed against Thomas

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A judge dismissed the civil case against former Belmont County commissioner Mark Thomas on Wednesday.

Thomas had been scheduled to appear Friday before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra to update the court on his process of finding and turning over documents related to his time serving as power of attorney for a client of his now-closed private legal practice. On Wednesday, Vavra said the plaintiff had filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice that day. Vavra added that the plaintiff, Kathy S. Amos, who has power of attorney for Thomas’ former client Alma Lukas, has the option to continue the case.

“I don’t know the basis for (the dismissal),” Vavra said. “I assume that they received what they wanted to receive. The dismissal is officially without prejudice, and that means they have one year to restart the case if they choose to.”

From mid-January to mid-February, Thomas served a 30-day sentence in the Belmont County Jail for contempt of court for failing to comply with an order to turn over documents to the plaintiff’s attorney, Andrew Walther. Thomas was last in court in February, just prior to his release, when Vavra granted him additional time to look for the records. In March, Vavra further continued the case to May because Thomas had shown compliance by locating and providing additional documents.

Walther could not be reached for comment regarding the reason behind the dismissal and how matters might proceed. Thomas, via email, declined to comment on the case.

According to court records, Vavra had ordered Thomas in November to supply files related to Lukas by Jan. 4. Amos, Lukas’ agent, had filed a civil case against Thomas earlier in 2018. According to the court, Thomas had power of attorney for Lukas several years ago. Amos was later invested with Lukas’ power of attorney and said Thomas failed to turn over documents, prompting Amos to sue for an injunction ordering that Thomas provide those records.

During those earlier proceedings, Walther said the documents Thomas did produce were only a small percentage of what was expected. According to an affidavit from Thomas, since his release from jail he searched through his old law files and provided two full 500-page containers to Walther by March.

Thomas’ law license was suspended for five years in Ohio last May. In August 2017, he consented to voluntary disbarment in West Virginia as he faced criminal charges in Ohio County for allegedly embezzling $36,000 from a client. He was acquitted of those charges April 11.

Thomas, a Democrat, concluded his elected term as commissioner at the end of 2018, having lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger Jerry Echemann. The case has no connection to Thomas’ role as an elected official.


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