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April 28, 2013

More than $24,000 needed for city’s lawyers in lawsuit

Plaintiff’s attorney not yet sure about appeal.

LOGANSPORT — Lawyers’ fees for the recently dismissed lawsuit filed against Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin and City Council have amounted to more than $24,000 for the city to date, according to invoices filed by the attorneys representing the city.

Logansport citizen Julie Kitchell, represented by local attorney Jim Brugh, filed the suit in March claiming the city engaged in the process of developing a public-private agreement with Pyrolyzer, LLC to develop a new power plant before adopting an ordinance authorizing it to do so. Lawyers representing Franklin and city council responded to the suit by citing a provision in Indiana Code allowing for the ratification of previous actions. This provision was among Cass County Superior Court II Judge Rick Maughmer’s reasons for dismissing the case earlier this month, according to court records.

City council’s finance committee has decided to recommend taking the money to pay for the attorneys’ fees out of the city’s rainy day fund. Teresa Popejoy, the committee’s chairwoman, said the fund currently has about $900,000.

City Council will vote on the appropriation at its meeting May 6.

Indianapolis-based attorney John Molitor represented city council in the case. According to his invoice, he put 29 hours into the case for a total of $5,075.

Attorneys Kimberly Blanchet and Mark Crandley of Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, also out of Indianapolis, represented Franklin. The pair spent about 50 hours on the case for a total of $19,160, according to their invoice.

The invoices describe tasks like reviewing case law cited in the suit and subsequent court documents filed by Brugh, drafting motions and responses and meeting with each other and clients to discuss strategy.

Both attorneys’ invoices include services rendered through April 15. Should Kitchell appeal, further payment will be necessary.

“I’m taking a wait-and-see approach,” Brugh said on whether there are plans to appeal.

Attorneys representing the city are calling the case frivolous and in bad faith. If Maughmer rules in their favor, Kitchell will have to reimburse the city for its legal fees. A hearing has been scheduled for June 11 to discuss this matter.

Concerns have been raised as to why outside legal assistance was acquired to defend the city rather than Logansport City Attorney Randy Head, who is also a state senator and practicing lawyer.

Franklin said he and the council decided to go with Blanchet, Crandley and Molitor because of their involvement with the power plant project. Blanchet, who works with Crandley at Barnes & Thornburg, is assisting the city in current negotiations between the city and Pyrolyzer. Molitor has worked as special counsel for the city throughout the project.

“I view this whole attempt at stopping our process as nothing more than a political move,” Franklin said. “These people started a war with a slingshot. If a slingshot is their weapon of choice, I’m going to do everything necessary to protect the city of Logansport’s interests as well as our partners’ in this venture.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

 

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