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Solar leases paid for majority of settlement

The yearslong strategic lawsuit against public participation that cost Boulder City more than $800,000 has already been paid for, in large part from solar leases, according to City Hall.

“We have the cash to cover it. The issue is, where is it coming out of?” Finance Director Shirley Hughes said. “We had a number of things happen this year. We do have some additional funds available; we just have to do the process of amending the budget.”

The money had to come out of the city’s general fund, Hughes said. Of the fund’s approximate $30 million budget, about $8 million is paid for by solar lease revenue, she added.

“The general fund is more than just taxpayer money,” Hughes said. “Solar leases really did help.”

According to City Attorney Dave Olsen, costs for the SLAPP were not covered under the city’s insurance policy. He said the city’s policy through Pool/Pact primarily covers tort liability, where someone injures themselves on city property.

He added that there is a clause in the policy for “errors and omissions,” but the SLAPP did not fall under that clause.

“It doesn’t kick in to cover us when we bring suit to somebody else,” Olsen said.

Litigation started in 2010 after City Hall sued the residents, challenging the legality of three initiatives they had gotten on a ballot. The proposals aimed to cap city debt, establish term limits for volunteer committees and prevent the city from owning more than one golf course. Voters later approved debt and term limits.

The District Court initially ruled in favor of the city.

But the Supreme Court overturned the decision, ruling the city had filed SLAPPs. Boulder City could have challenged the ballot initiatives by naming the secretary of state or another government entity as a defendant, the high court said.

In September, District Judge Steven Kosach ordered the city to pay the residents $190,000 in attorney fees. The city sought to have the judgment reduced to $30,000, but that was denied.

Instead, both parties reached a settlement of $175,000 for the attorney fees, which was paid to former City Councilwoman Linda Stickland and her husband, Tracy Strickland, who represented the residents.

In June, the residents filed three new lawsuits seeking damages from the city, Linda Strickland said. In October, the Stricklands requested $500,000 in compensatory damages, or $100,000 apiece for each plaintiff. By the time of the settlement, they got less than half that amount.

The total settlement of $237,500 is about 40 percent of what the Stricklands originally asked for when they filed for compensatory damages.

The breakdown, according to District Court records, comes out to $33,000 each for two residents, $23,000 for a third, and $18,000 each for the final two. A second check was written to Linda Strickland in the amount of $112,500.

Boulder City also paid the now-shuttered Las Vegas law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins $188,283 for representing City Hall, Olsen said. Attorney Steve Morris was paid $208,486 for his representation.

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

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