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Attorneys Get Paid
January 7, 2009 - While motions to pay the town’s claims almost always garner the Knightstown Town Council’s unanimous support, such was not the case at the final meeting of 2009.
At issue was approximately $14,700 owed to New Castle law firm of Hayes Copenhaver Crider, the town’s former legal counsel. Before voting at the end of the council’s Dec. 29 special meeting to pay year’s final claims, Council President Valerie Trump asked Vice President Clyde South for information about his discussions with Scott Hayes, a partner in the firm.
South said he had met with Hayes on Dec. 10, and then also had a follow-up telephone call with him. If the town agreed to pay $1,000 before Dec. 31, South said the law firm agreed to reduce the remaining balance to an even $13,000 if the remainder is paid by June 2009. If not paid by June, the town will be obligated to pay the full remaining balance of $13,689.16 in two equal installments, the first due by June and the second paid by December.
Council member Terry Guerin said he recognized that the town needs to pay its bills. However, he said that he could not, in good conscience, vote to pay the full amount Copenhaver’s firm has billed the town.
Guerin said the law firm, which unsuccessfully represented the town in a public records lawsuit won by The Banner in 2006, had not provided the council with requested information a timely manner. He also criticized the representation Copenhaver and his firm gave on that case, which accounted for the largest part of the town’s legal fees, saying he didn’t think the town should have even been in involved in the case.
“And once we were in that case, I don’t think we should have been advised to stay in that case,” Guerin said. Because the $1,000 payment to Hayes Copenhaver Crider was the only claim on the docket he objected to paying, Guerin said he thought it should be separated from the rest of the claims and voted on separately.
Council member Steve Nelson said he didn’t understand why this particular claim should not be voted on with the others. He said he didn’t see how it differed from any other town bill.
Guerin said if the claim was included with the others and not separated out, he would simply vote against the entire claim docket. Trump said that she agreed with Guerin, that the claim for Copenhaver’s firm should be handled separately.
“Why?” asked Nelson. “I only ask ... because it’s a bill like every other bill. Or should we start separating each individual bill and voting on each individual bill? Because I have questions about the gas bill.”
In deference to Nelson’s objection to separating the claim out, the council left the payment to Copenhaver’s firm as part of the full claim docket. As he said he would, Guerin voted against payment of the claim docket, which was approved by a 4-1 vote.
In a related matter, the council was asked about the town’s continuing failure to pay another bill, the $55,212.46. judgment owed to The Banner in attorney fees and court costs as the result of the public records lawsuit the town and its insurer lost. According to the order issued Aug. 12 by the Henry Circuit Court, both the town and its insurer are both jointly and severally liable for paying the judgment, but, so far, neither has made any attempt to satisfy any part of the judgment.
Guerin said the town’s current attorney, Gregg Morelock, is in the process of negotiating with the town’s insurer to determine how much each will pay toward the judgment. He said he did not recall the council giving Morelock a particular time frame to work out this matter, and neither Guerin nor any other member of the council said when they expected the judgment to be paid.
In other business at the Dec. 29 meeting, the council approved a resolution authorizing year-end transfers. The council also passed a resolution authorizing money transferred last June from the town’s Cumulative Capital Development Fund into the General Fund to be paid back to CCD.
The council also passed an ordinance authorizing Wayne Township to be responsible for providing fire protection for all of the township, including the town of Knightstown. For the change to take effect, the township’s three-member advisory board will need to pass a resolution containing identical language as that in the town’s ordinance.
In a related matter, the council approved an agreement leasing the town’s fire station at 30 S. Washington St. to Wayne Township. The lease requires the township to pay the town $14,400 a year in monthly installments for use of the property.
The council also approved a 10-year interlocal agreement with the town of Shirley, under which Knightstown will provide dispatch services to Shirley’s volunteer fire department and emergency services. For its part, Shirley has paid $5,000 toward Knightstown’s new radio system and will pay $2,000 a year for the term of the agreement to go toward maintenance of that system.
A new police schedule was also approved by the council in a move that is hoped will cut down on officers’ overtime. Under the new schedule, officers will work five days and be off two, then work another five days and be off three. Chief of Police Danny Baker told the council at their regular monthly meeting on Dec. 18 that the new schedule will reduce the number of hours each officer works from 2,080 a year to 1,946, while keeping their pay the same.
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