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Recovery center 'doing well and expanding,' despite payment dispute with lender

In the wake of a settlement agreement between Medicine Wheel Recovery Services Inc. and a Warren resident who lent money to the addiction recovery and treatment center, an attorney for Medicine Wheel says the organization was never negligent in its repayment of loans.

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A business suite nestled off Highway 30 in St. Helens houses Medicine Wheel Recovery Services Inc., a nonprofit addiction treatment and recovery center.

When Medicine Wheel founders Tana Howtopat and Pam Daniel were initially trying to get their nonprofit outpatient recovery center off the ground in 2015, they took personal loans from Mark Wallace, a man who lives in Warren and says he wanted to help get the center up and running.

Over the course of six months, Howtopat and Daniel executed three separate interest-free loan agreements with Wallace, amounting to $83,500.

Last year, Wallace filed a civil complaint against Howtopat and Daniel, as co-executive directors of Medicine Wheel, saying he wasn't being repaid on time or being paid according to the loan agreements.

Michael Sahagian, an attorney representing Howtopat and Daniel, says that's not true.

"They have done nothing but operate in good faith along the way," Sahagian said Monday.

A previous Spotlight article that outlined Wallace's legal complaint caused concern among Medicine Wheel clients that the nonprofit organization might be in financial trouble, Sahagian noted.

"They are doing very well and they're growing in a positive direction," Sahagian said. "I've had judges and other lawyers out here tell me they are just doing God's work."

The attorney said the disagreement over loan repayment was likely the result of poorly worded contracts, which were drafted without any legal or professional help.

"You had a bunch of folks who got together and put together their own contracts," Sahagian noted. "When things started going south between the folks, each side had their own interpretation of the facts."

Wallace still maintains the organization's directors stopped paying him, or didn't make payments according to a contract agreement, but Sahagian said there was likely confusion about what the monthly payment amounts should be.

Earlier this month, Wallace and Medicine Wheel reached a settlement agreement, which stipulated a repayment plan of $2,500 a month, with interest.

Still, Wallace questions the accounting practices and financial history of the recovery center.

"My goal in filing the original lawsuit was not to just recover the money," Wallace stated via email. "My main goal was to force an accurate accounting after Pam and Tana refused to provide any transparent accounting reports."

Wallace says he filed a complaint with the Department of Justice in 2016, suspecting fraud, and consulted with county commissioners, as well as the Columbia County District Attorney's Office, to no avail.

"They have done everything in their power to hide the business financial records," Wallace asserted.

Sahagian, speaking on behalf of his clients, said any notions of financial impropriety are simply false.

"Due to complaints by Mr. Wallace, state agency auditors looked at the organization and they passed with flying colors," he said.

Medicine Wheel has been operating since March 2016, offering addiction and recovery treatment services from a suite in St. Helens. The organization treats clients referred from Columbia Community Mental Health, as well as those seeking out treatment on their

own.

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