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I-Team: Another round in court will cost Boulder City taxpayers | News

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I-Team: Another round in court will cost Boulder City taxpayers

BOULDER CITY, Nev. -- Boulder City taxpayers lost another round in court this week and will have to dig a bit deeper into their wallets to pay for it.

The courts have ruled that Boulder City elected officials tried to silence and intimidate the voters by filing lawsuits against people who started political petitions. The legal bill keeps growing.

When residents of Boulder City decided in 2010 that their city council was ignoring the public, they started a series of petition drives. The city responded by suing the six individuals who started the petitions.

The Nevada Supreme Court has already agreed that this was a thinly disguised attempt to intimidate the public and punish those who dared to challenge the council.

Back in April, a judge ordered the city to pay the legal bills for the citizens who were sued, $180,000. The city, through its private attorneys, has continued to fight paying the owed legal fees.

On Monday, a district judge once again ordered the city to pay, but this time added another $10,000 onto the legal bill even though very little additional legal work has been done.

“There was no new information. There was no evidence. There was no new law cited in their briefs. It was basically a cut-and-paste job. Of the 5,000 words filed, there are only 150 to 200 that were different. Ironically the taxpayers of Boulder City have been billed about $40,000 from April to the present,” attorney for the plaintiffs Linda Strickland said.

Former councilwoman Strickland says, in addition to the $180,000, the city has already been billed more than $200,000 by the private lawyers it hired.

On Monday, the judge tacked another $10,000 on what is owed to the petitioner's lawyers. Taxpayers are footing the bill for both sides.

Steve Morris, the latest private lawyer to defend the city's position, denies the city was trying to trample anyone's right.

“We brought the original motion contesting those fees based on the order of the Supreme Court, which re-directed the district court to reassess its ruling,” Morris said.

The attorney for the petitioners thinks it is pretty clear the city wants to drag this out and make it as hard on the citizen activists as possible so that no one will ever dare to start a petition again. Not in Boulder City anyway.

“They have done everything they can to punish these individuals and punish the attorneys that represent them, i.e. myself and my husband Mr. Strickland. They want to make sure we are not paid. They want to make sure that the individuals who were slapped will not get their day in court. They want to make sure this chilling effect on public participation in Boulder City continues,” Strickland said.

City attorney Dave Olsen, who advised the council that it could sue the petitioners, is having a bad week. In addition to yet another rebuke from this latest judge, Olsen will also appear this week before the state ethics commission because he helped his son sue the city, his employer.

On Wednesday, the state ethics commission will consider a plea deal for city attorney Dave Olsen.

He was named in an ethics complaint filed by former Boulder City Police Chief Tom Finn after Olsen helped his son sue Boulder City.


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