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03.09.07 -- REPORT: Town to reimburse former councilman for legal fees

By CHER PHILLIPS


The McIntosh Town Council voted to reimburse former Councilman Jim Strange for his remaining legal fees from last summer when he sued a committee of residents seeking his removal from office, as well as town and county officials for accepting the paperwork.

The council voted 3-2 for reimbursing Strange, based primarily on the advice of the town's attorney, Scott Walker. Council Vice President Howard Walkup and Councilwoman Eunice Smith issued the dissenting votes.

Walker researched and wrote an opinion he provided to the council at last night's meeting. (Read Walker's opinion here)

The attorney said he thought that though Florida has a statute prohibiting municipalities from paying to defend a council member against a recall petition, he said that Strange's case was in the interest of the town and could make them liable if he sued. Walker said he thought if Strange sued the town in small claims court for the $1,977.99 remaining from his legal fees, he could win.

In August, Strange sued the committee recalling him, the McIntosh town clerk and the Marion County supervisor of elections asking a judge to determine if the recall petition circulated against him was legally sufficient.

During the discussion last night,Walkup disagreed with paying Strange the fees, because he said he did not agree with how the case was closed.

The judge ruling over the case in August deemed the petition was insufficient as it was written because four reasons were listed and one was not sufficient. The petition committee was directed to recirculate the petition with rewritten, clear reasons and bring that petition back to the court. Strange then resigned before another petition could be submitted.




Listen to the council discuss reimbursing Jim Strange:
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Strange's total legal fees were $5,705.12. He filed with the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust and received a check for $3,787.13.

Walker said that he thought if Jim Strange were to sue the town, "he's in a legal position that I think he can recover the $2,000."

Councilman Lee Deaderick made the initial motion to pay Strange's legal fees, noting that he agreed with Walkup but he wanted to follow the attorney's advice.

"I also think that any councilman, whether you agree with Jim Strange's recall or not, you're kind of voting against yourself," Deaderick said. He said that if they voted against reimbursing Strange they could set a precedent for the town, that future councils might not be willing to help them if they faced similar circumstances.

Another factor in the decision was expense.

Walkup would have liked to have Walker research further into the issue. But to continue paying the town's attorney, in addition to other court fees should the town face a lawsuit would outweigh paying Strange's fees.

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posted by Cher @ 10:38 AM,

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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