78°F
weather icon Clear

City seeks to reduce lawsuit fees

Boulder City is hoping to pay about $150,000 less than ordered for attorney fees for six residents who the Nevada Supreme Court ruled were wrongfully sued by the city after they circulated three ballot initiative petitions in 2010.

The hearing, scheduled for Monday, stems from an April 10 decision by Judge Steven Kosach, who ruled in favor of the residents, according to former Boulder City Councilwoman Linda Strickland.

Strickland and her husband, Tracy, represented Daniel Jensen, Walt Rapp, Frank Fisher, Cynthia Harris, Nancy Nolette and James Douglass in the case.

The city sued to challenge the legality of the three initiatives, which limited city debt, established term limits for volunteer committees and prevented the city from owning more than one golf course. City staff believed the initiatives overstepped the city’s administrative authority and that naming the petitioners in a lawsuit was the only way to have a court examine the initiatives.

The city, represented by the law firm Lionel Sawyer &Collins, successfully argued in District Court in Clark County that it had the right to sue the petitioners to challenge the initiatives.

The Supreme Court overturned the rulings of three District Court judges, ruling that the city’s lawsuits were strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, and the city could have challenged the initiatives by naming the secretary of state or another government entity as a defendant.

On June 5, Kosach ordered the city to pay the defendants’ attorney fees no later than July 5. But City Attorney Dave Olsen said the city thinks the amount of money exceeds what staff thinks is appropriate.

“The city is clearly going to have to pay something,” Olsen said. “We thought it was just not reasonable.”

Strickland said the city is just delaying the inevitable, and doesn’t see any reason why Monday’s hearing would go in the city’s favor.

“We don’t expect Judge Kosach to change his opinion because the city didn’t provide any new facts to make him change his opinion,” she said.

According to Strickland, city officials are looking to pay $30,000, a sixth of the $180,000 ordered. She said she thinks the $180,000 amount is appropriate.

“They want to pay us $30,000 for four years of work,” she said. “They know they have to pay us something, but unfortunately they want to pay us pennies on the dollar.”

The city has already paid approximately $200,000 for its own attorney fees throughout the case, according to Strickland, and that total will grow the longer the case drags on.

Olsen couldn’t confirm exactly how much the city paid for its attorney fees, but said $200,000 was “pretty close.”

If the city’s motion is denied, it then has 30 days to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Strickland said she’s almost certain the city will file an appeal if its motion is denied.

Olsen said the city hasn’t contemplated that option yet.

“I’m not really at liberty to speculate,” he said. “We’ll consider our options, but we haven’t made any plans at this juncture.”

If the city chooses to file an appeal, a decision might not be made until the beginning of 2016, Strickland said. She also said she plans to seek any new lawyer fees accrued since the April 10 ruling.

“The city can continue to run the bill up as much as (it wants), but it will cost taxpayers more money,” she said.

Three new lawsuits were filed in June by the initiative sponsors against the city to seek damages from the SLAPP, Strickland said.

Under a SLAPP, a person who is wrongfully sued has the right to bring his or her separate action for compensatory actions stemming from the lawsuit, which include emotional distress and public humiliation.

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Incumbents ousted; McManus elected mayor

Boulder City voters ushered in a new era of leadership by electing Kiernan McManus as mayor of the town over incumbent Rod Woodbury.

Adams, Bridges to join council

City Council will have several new faces as residents voted in James Howard Adams and Claudia Bridges to its two open seats over incumbents Peggy Leavitt and Rich Shuman during Tuesday’s municipal election.

Habitat for tortoises enlarged

Desert tortoises in the Eldorado Valley will have a larger area to play in and live as the City Council approved an agreement with Clark County on Monday for a new boundary to the Boulder City Conservation Easement.

City’s new utility advisers bring decades of experience

Boulder City’s new utility advisory committee officially has its members, and they want to provide expertise and transparency for the council and community.

Voters to head to polls Tuesday to select mayor, council members

Boulder City’s municipal election is Tuesday, June 11, and voters will choose their mayor and two City Council members as well as cast their votes on a variety of ballot questions.

City given $1.3 millon anonymous donation for pool

Boulder City’s pool will be swimming in extra cash as the city received an anonymous donation of $1.34 million for the facility.

Budget passes 4-1

Boulder City’s budget for next year has been approved despite a dissenting vote from one City Council member.

City’s past key in run for mayor

As Boulder City residents head to the polls, they will be asked to vote for mayor.

Plan to boost area for solar development recommended

The Planning Commission is recommending an amendment to the city’s master plan and a zoning change that will provide a larger conservation area and more solar development in the Eldorado Valley.

Early voting begins Saturday

Early voting for the upcoming Boulder City municipal general election begins Saturday, May 25, and continues until Friday, June 7.