CLINTON — Citizens and city officials expressed resentment Tuesday night conjoined with a sentiment that a dark period of Clinton legal troubles can be put to rest four years after they started to snowball.
The debate over whether to appeal Clinton County District Court Judge Nancy Tabor’s ruling in the Citizens for Open Government lawsuit against the City of Clinton was fairly one-sided, drawing a 6-1 council vote to not appeal the decision. Since the vote took place in the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the matter will appear again during Clinton’s next regular council meeting in the form of a resolution recommending Clinton accept Tabor’s ruling.
Or, in the words of one citizen, “bite the pill” and admit the wrongdoings.
“Get out of the lawsuit business, it’s not working for you,” said Jan Hansen, another resident who spoke publicly on the matter. “How do you expect to grow when you’re living in the past?”
If and/or when that resolution is adopted, the city will pay $40,680 in legal fees pertaining to the case as well as $40 in court costs. Those fees add to millions stemming from Clinton’s recent legal woes: a $4.5 million Medicare fraud settlement in 2010 and a failed lawsuit against attorney Michael Walker for legal malpractice last fall.
Councilmen John Rowland and Ed O’Neill -- former CFOG members -- both took issue with a public memo written by City Administrator Jessica Kinser prepping them on the matter. The memo relayed information from legal counsel Cynthia Sueppel and an outsourced attorney, Drew Chambers. It stated Rowland and O’Neill risked a potential conflict of interest for their roles in CFOG and recommended they abstain from the appeal discussion.
Both councilmen confirmed they risked no such violation.
“On the matter regarding the conflict of interest in the case of CFOG versus the City of Clinton, I have no conflict of interest,” O’Neill said. “Attorney Sueppel is the one who raised this issue for only one reason: because there is no reasonable expectation that she can win the case on an appeal, and I know she does not want input from me.”