Osceola City Council is going to pay its original election bill, but officials expressed their frustration with the situation during an Aug. 20 city council meeting.
During an Aug. 6 council meeting, the council authorized payment of $3,322.55 for election expenses from a May special election to repeal the local option sales tax (LOST).
At the time, the council didn’t authorize payment of $4,358.26 for the election’s legal fees.
Ty Wheeler, city administrator/clerk, said he and Mayor Fred Diehl met with officials from Clarke County, Woodburn and Murray to get an explanation about how the legal fees were incurred.
“The county attorney has concluded that the legal fees are billable as an election expense,” Wheeler said.
In the May special election, LOST was not repealed, on a vote of 611-119.
LOST is one of many contributors of payment for a reservoir project in Clarke County. The project would produce 2.2 million gallons of water per day from an 816-acre lake. The total cost of the project is $37.6 million.
The council asked Marc Elcock, city attorney, his thoughts on the legal-fees situation.
“I guess there’s room to argue that this would not be something that we would have to pay, but I don’t know if it’s worth that,” Elcock said. “It’s $4,000. I don’t know. I would imagine that an argument between myself and the county attorney would cost some money. It might not be worth the hassle.”
Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis said, if the city’s going to “run up more expenses wrangling with it,” then the city should just pay the original total for the election.
“Although, it’s interesting,” Fotiadis said. “The title of the line is the ‘LOST election,’ but if I remember right, at least the outcome was certainly still in our favor. Or, at least the favor of the position I wanted.”
Wheeler said he would not look forward to going back to the county and telling them the city wouldn’t pay the legal fees.
Diehl said he wasn’t happy with the entire situation.
“I think they should have at least called us and asked us before they sent us the bill,” he said. “That’s, I think, the thing that’s disturbing to me. We had no input. We did not ask for the election. We did not ask for the legal interpretations, and yet, we got stuck with the bill.”
Councilwoman Sarah Truitt agreed with Diehl. She said she disagreed with paying the bill because she doesn’t believe it’s the city’s burden.
No more ill will
However, the general consensus among the council members was they didn’t want to cause any more ill will between the city and county.
“As a former administrator, you have to deal with these kinds of things here. Sometimes, you don’t always like what you have to do,” said Councilman David Walkup. “However, with the letter that goes with our payment, I would think it would be a great opportunity, whoever you send it to … if this should ever happen again, when there’s legal fees, we would appreciate when these are being accumulated, so we are aware that these are coming. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
The council unanimously approved paying the cost of $4,358.26 for the special election’s legal fees. Councilman Glenn Schaff was absent from the meeting.