Supervisors balk at lawsuit-defense costs
FONDA – Montgomery County could pay more to handle a land-access lawsuit that already has cost taxpayers nearly $30,000 since 2009.
A resolution brought before the supervisors’ Finance Committee on Tuesday requested a transfer of funds to help pay for legal fees.
Root Town Supervisor and Board Chairman John Thayer said many members of the county Finance Committee feel the cost has been excessive.
“He’s charging rather well,” Thayer said of attorney Kenneth Ayers of Palatine Bridge, who is representing the county in the case.
Kimberly Patterson sued the county, the county sanitary district and the village of Nelliston in January 2009, saying county and village officials had no right to enter her land at 20 River St. in Nelliston to maintain sewer lines owned by the village and county and a sewer pump station owned by the county.
She claims she is owed $100,000 each from the county and the village and $2,000 monthly for future access to the sewer equipment on her land.
The county filed a counterclaim in April 2009, saying Patterson owes the county $145,750 for “unlawful occupation” of the property.
The resolution first brought up Tuesday before the committee would have transfered $20,000 from a contingent account to the professional services account. However, it was amended and moved on to the full board without a precise dollar figure.
County Attorney Doug Landon said the additional funds could be used to pay bills for services already provided.
According to Landon and other members of the board, they have no clue how much it could legitimately cost.
“The bill could be $2,000,” Landon said. “Without knowing, we’re just guessing.”
Finance Committee Chairperson Dominick Stagliano agreed.
“It would be easier to know where the contract is and what the $20,000 does for it,” Stagliano said.
Palatine Supervisor Brian Sweet, who also is chairman of Sanitary District 1, was not available Tuesday to comment.
Despite the uncertainty about the cost, all but one member of the committee, Amsterdam Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza, approved the resolution. However, Amsterdam 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Chiara said more information would be needed for the full board’s approval.
“I’ll move it, but I want a lot of information at the meeting. I want something I can understand,” Chiara said.
In April 2010, the Board of Supervisors voted to transfer $5,000 from the contingency account to pay for legal fees for defending against the Patterson lawsuit.
The 2010 resolution also called for an additional $5,000 from the sanitary district’s 2010 operating budget to go toward legal fees. At that point, the county already had spent about $17,000 fighting the lawsuit.
Arthur Cleveland can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.