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City may seek legal opinion on water fee issue

By Staff | Feb 17, 2010

Cape Coral City Council might seek an outside legal opinion, possibly from the State Attorney General, on the language of a resolution which resulted in overcharging rate payers a total of $4.1 million in fees between 2005 – 2010.
During a special meeting Wednesday, six of the eight sitting council members said they would support the move should it come before the board for a vote.
Councilmember Bill Deile — who has been vocal about his suspicion that fees might not have to be repaid at all — said the language of the resolution, and the intent of that language, that uncapped water usage was not clear.
He said he understood that 2005’s City Council intended to remove the cap, but that he finds a problem with the wording.
“Unless we have unanimity here, I’d prefer to go to an outside party for an opinion,” Deile said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who also supports seeking outside legal source, called on former mayor Arnold Kempe for his opinion on the resolution’s language. Kempe was mayor when the resolution was passed.
Kempe said he thought it unlikely the State Attorney General would interpret Cape Coral resolutions for the council, and said the resolution speaks for itself.
“There wasn’t any question what the intent of the resolution was,” Kempe said. “If the resolution is clear, there’s no need for intent.”
There was some question as to whether the public was notified of the change.
While copies of a notice stating the rate change did exist, city Finance Director Linda Senne said she couldn’t recall if those notices were ever sent out with rate payer’s bills.
She said she couldn’t remember if colored paper was used for the notice, as different colors are used to catch people’s eyes when they open their bills, especially if something has changed.
“I can’t prove it was sent … but we wouldn’t generate something and not do something with it,” she said.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said he thought seeking an opinion from an outside source was a waste of time, and preferred to see council step up and make a decision.
“I’m not sure the Attorney General will be a lot of help,” he said.