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Taxpayers on Hook for Lee County Defense

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It appears Lee County taxpayers will be on the hook for about 25% of the legal fees resulting from the defense of three county supervisors against a recent lawsuit.  The supervisors were accused by several Keokuk residents of violating Iowa's Open  Meetings Act multiple times.

The plaintiffs claimed that Ron Fedler, Rick Larkin, and Ernie Schiller met several times without letting the public know in advance, including a meeting in December 2014.
 

The lawsuit was dropped, though, on Aug. 10, 2015. Curtis Dial, who represented the Keokuk residents, said his clients were confident violations would not happen again, given the new make-up of the board. The lone change was that Don Hunold replaced Schiller.

The county's insurance carrier, EMC Insurance Companies, paid for the defense of the supervisors. The company sent a bill dated Aug. 31 that stated Lee County owes the company $3,000 to cover its deductible. The entire legal bill was nearly $13,000.

The supervisors are expected to discuss paying the bill during their Sept. 15 meeting.

Cindy Renstrom, Lee County Budget Director, said the money will likely come from the taxpayer-supported general fund.

Fedler, who now chairs the Board of Supervisors, said he expects the bill to be paid in a timely manner. He said what remains up in the air is if members of the board will want to take legal action to recoup the money from the plaintiffs.

That idea was proposed publicly by Schiller. He said on several occasions the county should take legal action against the plaintiffs to recoup the $3,000 or more so as to avoid an increase in the county's insurance premium.

Fedler said he expects a lot of discussion on the topic during the board meeting.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.