Pharos-Tribune

May 4, 2014

Attorneys argue fees for power plant suit

City's attorneys say charges brought by citizen were frivolous

by Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter
Pharos-Tribune

---- — Attorneys representing Logansport’s mayor and city council argued Friday that a citizen who sued the city filed her suit on claims that were frivolous and that she should have to pay the city’s attorneys’ fees.

Julie Kitchell, a Logansport citizen, represented by attorney Jim Brugh, filed a lawsuit in March 2013 alleging the city did not follow a sequence spelled out in public-private agreement law with a company proposing to develop a power plant in the city.

After being dismissed where it was first filed in Cass County Superior Court II, the suit was eventually argued before the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the city.

Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said the lawsuit has cost the city about $70,000. He and the city’s attorneys have called the charges frivolous since the suit was first filed and expressed a desire to seek the city’s attorneys’ fees from Kitchell.

The state supreme court did not grant this request at the appellate level of the lawsuit. A hearing was held Friday in Cass County Superior Court II, where attorneys argued whether Kitchell should pay the city’s attorneys’ fees for $24,235-worth of work done at the county level of the lawsuit.

Mark Crandley, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg’s Indianapolis office representing Franklin in the case, reminded those present that the state supreme court sided with the city’s argument that Indiana’s public-private agreement laws do not require a sequential process. He said it would be unreasonable to interpret the law any other way. He went on to argue Kitchell never declared any kind of personal injury from the city’s actions and said she was using the suit as a “veto” for decisions made by city officials in “an attempt to halt a project” she doesn’t agree with.

Brugh argued because Kitchell is an LMU ratepayer, she had the right to object to the city’s negotiations over a project that would ultimately affect her electric rates. He went on to remind those present that the state supreme court denied the city’s motion to award attorneys’ fees at the appellate level.

“If she ain’t frivolous up there, she ain’t frivolous in the small amount of time she was down here,” Brugh said.

Cass County Superior Court II Judge Rick Maughmer told the attorneys he planned to come to a decision on the matter late this week.

• Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130