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Council rejects UEP lawsuit settlement

By Staff | Dec 24, 2010

City Council rejected Thursday a mediated settlement proposal that would have ended Mayor John Sullivan’s and Councilmember Bill Deile’s utility expansion project lawsuit against the city.
The suit, which also includes a private party plaintiff, now likely will move to the courtroom, but the exact time frame of when, and how the issue will be resolved is unknown.
Council rejected the proposal 4-2 at a special council meeting called by Sullivan.
Council members Chris Chulakes-Leetz, Kevin McGrail, Marty McClain and Derrick Donnell voted against, while Council members Pete Brandt and Erick Kuehn voted to accept the settlement hammered out in mediation.
As plaintiffs, Deile and Sullivan did not vote although both spoke during discussion of the settlement proposal.
Had council accepted the terms, the city would have paid a total $10,001 to the three plaintiffs, which also includes private property owner Robert Sylvester.
Sullivan and Deile each filed suit prior to their winning elected office. Sullivan would have received a $1, while Deile and Sylvester would have received $5,000, $1,500 of which each would have donated to charity.
The suit centers around the allegation that the UEP assessment methodology used by the city in expanding water, sewer and dual water services to the plaintiffs’ assessment area was illegal.
The mediated settlement was not a resolution, according to Chulakes-Leetz, because if council accepted the offer it would have done nothing to actually change the methodology in dispute.
“To agree to pay $5,000, I’m not sure what I would be paying for, except to not make it a burden to the plaintiffs, and that’s not my role,” he said.
After making a presentation that included a prepared statement and use of Power Point as a visual aid, Deile maintained that not settling the lawsuit would lead to hundreds of thousands of more dollars the city will spend, instead of a just another $10,000.
Before the settlement discussion, Deile made a motion that City Manager Gary King make the decision on the lawsuit instead of council as the settlement amount was within King’s authority parameters, but that proposal also was rejected 4-2, with only Kuehn and Brandt supporting it.
Kuehn called Deile’s presentation one “of the most beautiful speeches” he’d heard, and said if Deile were either in the job market or employed by him in the private sector, he would either hire Deile or give him a raise.
Council member Kevin McGrail — who twice asked Sullivan and Deile if they would drop the suit, offering to match $100 to their charities of choice — and Marty McClain each pointed out that city council can change the assessment methodology from the dais at any time.
To date, the board has not done so.
Councilmember Derrick Donnell said the matter has become too politicized, and that it makes him “nervous”.
Because of that, Donnell said it would be wise to see how the issue plays out.
“There is no perfect solution to how we do assessments, and because of that someone is going to have to pay,” Donnell said, adding, “There is no perfect solution but this needs to run its course.”