A Cleveland attorney named by local radio icon Howie Chizek as the executor of his $1.6-million-plus estate is in hot water in Summit County Probate Court over an apparent oversight that caused extensive damage to Chizek’s Twinsburg home earlier this year.
Testimony at a probate hearing Tuesday morning showed that Chizek’s home was not properly winterized in the months after his June 2012 death.
Water lines eventually froze inside the two-story home and, some time later, burst during the spring thaw, causing more than $118,000 in damage from flooding and extensive development of mold, according to testimony.
The flooding was so serious, Chizek’s brother Larry said during the hearing, that water could be seen gushing out the front doors. He said that Twinsburg police notified his wife about the problem in May.
The apparent oversight, along with the fact that Chizek’s estate has not closed in probate court some 18 months after his death, could lead to the removal of the estate’s executor, attorney Charles M. Morgan.
Chief Probate Magistrate George R. Wertz told attorneys from both sides that he would take the matter under advisement and notify them about a decision.
Morgan, who was granted three extensions on the filing of probate documentation because of his involvement in a Cleveland murder case, declined to comment following Tuesday’s hearing.
But in sworn testimony to direct questioning by Wertz, Morgan told the magistrate: “As far as winterizing, I went over and I thought I had turned off the water. Obviously I probably turned it the wrong way. I thought I had turned it off.”
Morgan went on to testify that he remembered being at Chizek’s home about five or six weeks before the May flooding call by Twinsburg police.
“That five or six weeks, that’s a guess,” Morgan said. “I didn’t write down every day I was there.”
Morgan said he “peeked inside” the home before it flooded, but did not walk through it to check on whether everything was secure.
An assistant to Twinsburg police Chief Christopher Noga told the Beacon Journal later Tuesday that the department received a call about the flooding on May 20. Someone who lived in Chizek’s neighborhood made the call.
Larry Chizek’s wife, Bonnie, then was called by police at their Twinsburg home.
When his wife went to his brother’s home with police there, he said, “she walked into the foyer, but they wouldn’t let her anywhere past that because there was a tremendous amount of mold in the house. And the water covered the whole first floor, a couple of inches, and there were mushrooms on the floor and that kind of thing. I guess there was flooding down in the basement, too.”
After the hearing adjourned, Larry Chizek paused outside to briefly answer questions from a Beacon Journal reporter about the home.
On his morning talk-show program on WNIR (100.1 FM), Chizek often talked about how much he loved living in Twinsburg and how fond he was of his 2,500-square-foot home.
Larry Chizek acknowledged that his brother is probably “rolling over in his grave” about all the damage.
“That’s how I felt, too,” he said. “It’s a shame. He loved his house.”
Records in Chizek’s probate court file contained a letter from Probate Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, on Oct. 29, to Chizek’s personal lawyer, Becky Blair of Cleveland, showing that the latest disbursement figures in the estate were determined to be $1,667,054.69.
Stormer informed Blair that Morgan’s executor fee, totaling $14,000, was not approved for payment “for several reasons.”
One of the reasons, Stormer’s letter stated, was that no Ohio estate tax return has been filed as yet. Because of that, “the non-probate assets cannot be verified,” the letter said.
The bulk of Chizek’s estate, including the Twinsburg home, any vehicles, a coin collection and all of his remaining assets, was left to Eric Sylvester, 28, a former St. Ignatius athlete from Cleveland who now apparently works for a local dairy company.
Sylvester and his mother attended Tuesday’s probate hearing and sat quietly in the rear section of the public gallery. Both declined to comment afterward on any aspects of the case.
Friends of Chizek told the Beacon Journal last year that Chizek was close to the Sylvester family, which included Eric and his brothers, Brian and Marc. The brothers were once all St. Ignatius athletes.
Chizek, who was 65, suffered a heart attack and died, June 16, 2012, while taking a group of youths on his New Adventure organization’s annual trip to Disney World.
His talk-show program, which aired six days a week, ran for more than 38 years, the longest tenure in America.
Cleveland attorney questioned about Chizek estate; his home damaged after water pipes froze and burst in May
December 10, 2013
Akron Beacon Journal