PARKERSBURG - The Parkersburg Art Center is seeking compensation for damages during an Ohio University sorority's winter formal in March, a claim denied by the chapter.
Geni Astorg, president of the Art Center board of directors, said the matter was referred to the center's insurance carrier and it's between the company and the Pi Beta Phi sorority or the college.
"We're not even going to comment," Astorg said.
The damages occurred on March 6 and a report was made to the Parkersburg Police Department three weeks later on April 1 by Dwaine Hartley, facilities coordinator. Hartley had no comment and referred questions to attorney Richard Hayhurst. Messages left for Hayhurst were not returned.
Damages alleged in the police report were from spilled drinks, chewing gum on the carpet and dance floor and a food fight along with the theft of several taps to the beer kegs. The damages exceeded a $1,200 security deposit from the sorority.
Police Chief Joe Martin said the center filed a "record only" report and the Art Center withheld the security deposit. The sorority had no intent of criminal activity, he said.
"In order for us to investigate there has to be crime," Martin said. "There was no criminal investigation. Never was. We took a record only report."
The incident is under review by the OU Office of Judiciaries, which is standard procedure whenever a police report is made, said Ryan Lombardi, dean of students. Members of the chapter are being interviewed, he said.
Pi Beta Phi national issued a statement on behalf of the chapter, saying the formal included dinner and dancing and ended as planned at 10:30 p.m. At the conclusion, a representatives of the Art Center told the chapter it was welcome to return, the statement said.
"That is why the chapter was surprised when a month later, the Art Center made a claim against the chapter for damages," the national said.
The chapter requested and was refused documentation of the damages and the Art Center through its attorney threatened a lawsuit, according to the national. An investigation showed someone took the taps for the beer kegs, but he was identified and restitution made.
"The chapter will defend the charges brought by Ohio University. Those charges are based solely on the letter from the Arts Center and a police report. It is important to recognize that the police were not contacted by the Arts Center until a month after the event," the national said. "The police report simply concludes that the venue's complaints are a civil, not a criminal, matter. We agree."
Damages were exaggerated and the Art Center provided no documentation justifying retaining the security deposit, the national said.