Martinsville taking legal action against man behind failed Martinsville medical school

Summons to be issued, requiring Dr. Noel Boaz to answer questions from city

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The city of Martinsville is issuing a summons to Dr. Noel Boaz, the man behind the failed medical school there.

Martinsville Mayor Gene Teague said city council members have a lot of questions about how Boaz spent an $800,000 Tobacco Commission grant to try to open a medical school in the city.

Teague said in October Boaz sent a two-page letter to council members, attempting to answer these questions.

But council members still had more questions than answers Wednesday.

"We had submitted a list of questions to Dr. Boaz. He basically responded with a two-page letter that didn't really answer our questions," Teague explained.

Teague said Wednesday afternoon the city's attorney planned to sit down with the circuit court judge and work out the details of the summons.

"At the time of the investment, at the time we made the decision, we had an individual that had a track record; developed the Virginia Museum of Natural History. So, he was a credible individual with a track record of success in our community," Teague said of Boaz.

Teague also pointed out that Martinsville is just one of 17 localities across the commonwealth currently having to repay a grant to the Tobacco Commission because of a failed project.

On Wednesday, 10 News called Boaz multiple times for a comment but did not get a response.

City manager Leon Towarnicki said the exact impact of the repayment is yet to be determined, but it will certainly hurt, especially with the city already facing the possibility of having to revert to a town in the near future.

"(The repayment) is certainly another piece in the puzzle. Every year, with the revenue and the expenditure piece tightening up a little more and a little more, this is just another straw on the camel's back," Towarnicki said.

The city has agreed to pay the Tobacco Commission $156,000 a year for five years in order to repay the grant, which equals $780,000.

The remaining $20,000 was deducted from the original grant amount because the Tobacco Commission gave Boaz credit for creating some jobs as the medical school was working to open.

The payments will be made in July of each fiscal year, beginning with fiscal year 2019, which starts July 1, 2018.

Towarnicki said the Tobacco Commission has also given the city the option of splitting the payments into bi-annual payments, one in July and one in January, should the city be unable to pay the full $156,000 all at once.

As for where the city will get the money, at least in the upcoming fiscal year Towarnicki said the money will likely come from the city's capital improvement budget because that is where the city has the most flexibility in its overall budget.

"With a payment of $156,000, that's $156,000 less that you can allocate to a capital project or replacement of equipment or, in all likelihood, it's going to end up being a combination of things," Towarnicki said.

Once a summons is issued to Boaz, he will have 21 days to respond to the city's questions in writing or come before city council and answer the questions in person.

When asked for a copy of Boaz's letter, Teague said it would be released later in the week along with the city's response.


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