'Looks like square one' as city prepares to return to court
by Eric Snyder -- esnyder@cadizrecord.com
Apr 12, 2006 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the first time in more than a year, attorney Steve Underwood met with the full city council in executive session last week.
For the first time in more than a year, attorney Steve Underwood met with the full city council in executive session last week.
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In what used to be a common occurrence, former City Attorney Steve Underwood met with the Cadiz City Council in executive session last week to discuss the city’s legal strategy in the lawsuits filed against it by residents of two questionably annexed subdivisions.

It was the first time Underwood briefed the full council since 2004, when Jamus Redd became City Attorney. With Redd having been appointed District Judge, Underwood has once again assumed the position of representing Cadiz in the lawsuits, which are now almost four years old.

Underwood, however, said he was already largely up-to-speed with the cases, as he’d kept in contact with Redd.

The council met with Underwood April 5 for more than an hour, but took no action. Underwood said they didn’t discuss attempting to negotiate a settlement out of court, but rather what their litigation strategy would be.

Though a “tentative oral agreement” was announced between the city, the land developer Headley Bluff and homeowners involved in a class-action lawsuit against the city in September, negotiations to finalize that agreement fell apart earlier this year.

Former City Attorney Jamus Redd would not comment at the time whether the biggest impediment against the agreement came from the plaintiffs against the city or from city council members themselves. Two council-members, Susan Bryant and Frankie Phillips, voted against September’s tentative agreement.

As Redd said when the agreement was first announced, the city’s record in court is not an enviable one. In April of 2004, Circuit Judge Dennis Foust deemed the annexations “voidable,” opening the door for more than 300 residents to sue for back taxes.

In July of 2004, against the repeated objections of Underwood, District Judge Jill Clark ordered the return of property taxes paid by several residents in 2002, as per Judge Foust’s ruling.

The city, at risk of losing several hundred thousand dollars should all eligible homeowners file for back taxes, has appealed the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

A stay was issued on that case, as well as a class-action lawsuit filed by residents George Zering and David Poe, as the parties attempted to settle a negotiation.

Now, however, the gloves again appear to be off.

Not only is the city’s record in court an unenviable one, it has also proven a costly one. Budget figures from the City Administrator’s office put attorney fees for the city since 2002 at more than $84,000. With one quarter left to go in the current fiscal year, Cadiz is already $680 over the $15,000 they’d allotted for legal expenses.

At a recent meeting of the City Finance Committee, Mayor Lyn Bailey suggested that the time-consuming legal battle has also cost the city in other ways, as it consumes so much of the City Council’s time. For instance, he said he’d long planned to increase the city’s business-privilege license fee, which hasn’t been adjusted since the 1970s, but hadn’t gotten around to it because of the dispute.

Donna McNichols, Chairperson of the finance committee, said the dispute has distracted the council “from the other positive things we could be doing in our community.”

For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.
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