Chapel Hill Mall faces additional lawsuit tied to electricity nonpayments

Jim Mackinnon
Akron Beacon Journal
The front of Chapel Hill Mall on Brittain Road in Akron.

A Texas electricity reseller is suing Chapel Hill Mall and its owner for nonpayment of more than $237,000 in a case tied to other lawsuits against the beleaguered Akron mall, which is fighting foreclosure proceedings.

Freepoint Energy Solutions LLC of Houston is suing the mall and its owner seeking $237,507.40 in past-due payments as of Aug. 5, plus interest. The case was filed Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas court.

Freepoint resells electricity to consumers, small businesses, commercial and industrial companies; it bought power from Ohio Edison and then sold it to the mall, according to the suit. The suit was filed against mall owner Michael Kohan of Great Neck, N.Y., Chapel Hill Mall Realty Holdings LLC, Southbridge Mall Realty Holdings LLC, and Kohan Retail Investment Group LLC.

FirstEnergy subsidiary Ohio Edison in January also sued the mall, saying it was owed more than $195,000; the utility later amended the complaint to say it was owed $495,648.11 as of June 5.

In a filing Aug. 3 in Summit County Common Pleas Court, Ohio Edison said it would no longer pursue the portion of its bill that represents Freepoint’s charges. Another filing said that a mediation conference on July 14 between Ohio Edison and mall representatives was unsuccessful and the case was referred back to court.

The mall recently lost its last anchor store, J.C. Penney, which has exacerbated its financial problems. J.C. Penney announced earlier this year it was going to close the mall store and others. The going-out-of-business sale, delayed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, recently concluded.

A message was left Monday seeking comment from mall owner Michael Kohan.

“Freepoint has expressed its desire to pursue the balance due to it directly, through its own efforts,” says the Aug. 3 Ohio Edison filing. “Plaintiff Ohio Edison will only seek to collect the sums due to Ohio Edison.”

Meanwhile, Summit County continues to foreclose on the mall. But because Summit County Common Pleas Court actions have been postponed because of the pandemic, there has been no movement on the case since late winter.

“There’s really no activity,” said Jack LaMonica, chief of staff to county Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise. The court will revisit its stay on cases in early September, he said.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” LaMonica said.

The county in February foreclosed upon the mall over nonpayment of current back taxes totaling more than $455,000. That amount has grown to $610,913.62, which includes a second-half nonpayment penalty and interest.

Second half taxes were due July 17. LaMonica said the mall did not make a payment.

LaMonica said county officials last spoke with mall owner Mike Kohan sometime in February.

“He wanted to work with us,” LaMonica recalled. But since that conversation, “we have not heard from him,” he said.

Jim Mackinnon covers business. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ