Government Law

$350K Legal Bill in Closed-Meetings Case

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A town in Washington state has racked up $340,000 in legal fees to defend litigation over allegedly illegal closed-door meetings of the municipal council.

And that amount could rise by another $250,000 if the plaintiffs win their case against four current and former members of the Shoreline City Council, and the municipality’s taxpayers hence have to pay their legal fees, too, reports the Seattle Times. The council members, by contrast, face “a few hundred dollars in fines” if they lose the case, the newspaper writes.

The plaintiffs accuse a majority of the council of meeting in secret in 2005, in order to force the then-city manager out of office. Critics contend the case could have been settled early on with a paltry payment and an apology. But the accused council members, who say they did nothing wrong, fought the litigation, which they describe as harassment by disgruntled political opponents.

“Ridiculous,” is how Councilman Ron Hansen describes the rapidly rising legal bill for the case. It is the only issue, apparently, on which both sides agree.

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