County Commission: Who is paying the attorney bills?
by Dennis Sharkey
There is still confusion about who is responsible for paying the county attorney’s fees in a settlement to a federal lawsuit involving an adult entertainment club located outside of Meriden.
Part of the settlement called for both parties to be responsible for their own attorney fees and that no money would exchange hands.
Commissioners have contended for months that they are covered under their liability insurance for the lawsuit.
However, more than $11,000 in attorney fees from attorney Patrick B. Hughes, was paid for consultation with the county planning and zoning commissioner before a lawsuit was filed.
The county also hired Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney, and has spent nearly $36,000 on his fees.
Commissioners have said that they notified their insurance carrier via a telephone call that they were being sued, but that no official letter was ever sent and that no letters were ever received from the company. Chairman Richard Malm said the county has not received the final bill from their attorneys.
County Clerk Linda Buttron said the county’s insurance carrier doesn’t require the county to notify by a written letter. She said this is the process that has always been used. The county uses an insurance pool through the Kansas Association of Counties.
“We’ve had many lawsuits over the years and it’s always been the policy and procedure,” First District Commissioner Lynn Luck said.
When asked if they have received any assurance they are covered, Luck responded, “We have a policy that says that we are covered.”
Commissioners said representatives from the company were involved in settlement negotiations but Hayes refused to name any of the attorneys. Furthermore, the detailed billing from Bergthold never mentions any consultations with anyone other than Snyder’s attorneys and Hayes.
A few weeks ago commissioners said that they would be responsible for a $5,000 deductible but the answer changed on Monday.
“The insurance company is going to pick up part of the tab,” Malm said.
Malm would get specific on what part of the tab meant and only said they have an amount they will go up to.
Luck acknowledged that writing regulations for the county would not be covered. A majority of the charges that Bergthold submitted have to do with writing new zoning regulations and resolutions.
In other business:
• Commissioners approved the 2012 budget that will have a 3.5 mill increase. The increase will raise about $500,000. Commissioners also cut more than five percent from the $16 million budget. Commissioners said valuations remained flat.
• County Health Director Beth Brown reviewed plans for servicing Jefferson County Schools this fall. Brown said her department is developing plans to deal with some increasing populations of illnesses such as diabetes and food allergies.
She also talked about head lice checks and other tests that nurses will be administering in the schools.
• Commissioners approved a federal grant application for a school immunization grant. Brown said another grant that would focus on adult immunization rates would have been a fit for the county but the state fell short of having enough counties apply.
The school grant would be a two-year grant with the first year focusing on developing a plan and the second year on implementation. The county ranks 74th in the state in immunization rates.
• The health department will begin administering flu vaccinations Oct. 1. The department will have some extended hours during October. The office will be open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and on Saturday mornings until noon.
Flu clinics will be held in Fairview Township, Valley Falls, Nortonville, Winchester, McLouth and Perry. Cost will be $25 per shot which is the same as last year. Medicare Part B pays 100 percent.
Brown said her department does not have the ability to accept insurance for the shots, however, it should be reimbursable through a claim. She said the department is working on getting software that will let them accept insurance cards next year.
• A date has been set for the 10th annual Taste of Elegance dinner and auction. It will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22. Tickets are $25 or $200 for an eight-seat table. The event raises funds to support Jefferson County Hospice. Details to come.
• County Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard reported that his department has completed their chip and seal program for the season. He said more than 40 miles were completed.
• A private gas company has requested to lay a one-inch gas line in a county right-of-way. Commissioners instructed the company to seek a private easement. Hubbard said typically the only lines that run through county right-of-way are big gas companies but not small private companies.
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