Officials to pursue their UEP lawsuit
Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmember Bill Deile say they both plan on continuing their lawsuit against the city, and will likely retain counsel to pursue those means.
A mediated settlement for the lawsuit that contests how the city assesses properties for utilities expansion projects, was rejected by city council last week.
If approved, Deile would have received $5,000, $1,500 of which would have been donated to the city’s Charter School. Sullivan would have received $1. And a third party, Robert Sylvester, would also have received $5,000.
Deile said the city will now likely have to pay thousands of more dollars regardless of the outcome, including $80,000 already tallied by the city attorney’s office defending the suit.
“Here was an opportunity to not risk spending $60,000 to $100,000 for an outcome they may or may not be happy with. Either way, it’s going to cost them more than $10,000,” Deile said.
Sullivan said the lawsuit is about more than just assessment methodology, and that the system, as it now stands, is not fair and balanced.
He said property owners are not receiving equal treatment, and that the city is “subsidizing” churches and for -profit schools with reduced fees or assessments. Those reductions are violating the U.S. Constitution, he added.
Sullivan is confidant they’ll win the suit filed before either was elected to office.
“When we win this lawsuit, it will make the city more careful about how they go about the next (UEP) projects coming up,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to see anybody given special breaks, everyone should be paying the same price.”
Changing the assessment methodology from the dais is not realistic, Sullivan said, because it’s unclear what the make-up of the council will be once the UEP eventually comes back online.
Sullivan said he’ll look to recoup all of his out-of-pocket expenses now that the suit is going to court, something he said he previously would have let slide.
“I want to recoup everything,” Sullivan said. “I want it all.”
Deile said he will likely contact the American Civil Liberties Union to see if the assessment breaks being given to local churches violates the separation of church and state.
He said council’s decision to deny the settlement sends a mixed message.
“They don’t seem to be bothered by that methodology for corporate welfare,” Deile said.
Sullivan reiterated that the whole point of the lawsuit is to ensure that moving forward, the UEP has a concise and level playing field for everyone, regardless of the size and shape of their lot, and that everyone is receiving equal treatment.
“The whole purpose is to make sure the city doesn’t go about this in a half- assed way like before. We want to make sure they become responsible about what they do,” Sullivan said. “It has tremendous effect on the residents.”