Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill is suing Escambia County for far more than $23,000 in authorized costs he incurred in successfully defending a defamation lawsuit.
In July, the Initially District Courtroom of Appeal upheld a ruling by Escambia Circuit Court Decide Stephen Pitre that Underhill had immunity from a lawsuit submitted by Scott Miller above Underhill’s reviews on Fb about Miller’s involvement with the Rolling Hills landfill in the Wedgewood neighborhood.
Pitre dominated that Underhill’s opinions on Facebook ended up a dialogue of public county coverage and, consequently, component of his occupation as a county commissioner.
Very last week, Underhill requested his fellow county commissioners to vote to pay his authorized charges in the situation, but none of the other commissioners would 2nd the merchandise or even speak on it, meaning it died with out a vote.
Underhill’s lawyers, Todd Harris and Ed Fleming of the McDonald Fleming legislation business, submitted a lawsuit Monday afternoon on behalf of Underhill, demanding the county stick to its coverage to pay back for the legal protection of commissioners sued in excess of a thing “within just the scope of their responsibilities.”
The coverage, adopted in 2014, claims the county will pay back for lawful costs for commissioners if sure situations are satisfied.
Underhill’s legal professional argued that with the court’s final ruling, all of the conditions needed under the county policy experienced been satisfied.
“Less than the Policy, Underhill has a crystal clear legal ideal to have the Board shell out his affordable attorney’s costs and fees,” the grievance states. “When the demands of the Policy were achieved, the Board had a apparent lawful duty to comply with its individual plan regarding payment of attorney’s charges and costs.”
Fleming provided the News Journal with a duplicate of the complaint, but declined to remark a lot more on the case. Fleming did look just before the County Fee last week and reported the courtroom has settled no matter whether Underhill’s opinions on social media have been part of his work as a county commissioner.
“4 judges have seemed at it, a demo court choose and three appellate judges, they all explained that it was (part of his position),” Fleming reported. “That problem are unable to be challenged any more. It really is ‘res judicata.’ It is the rule of the case. It really is the rule of law. I would check with that you utilize the rule of regulation — your rules — as you would to anyone else. Set personalities aside and reimburse any attorneys fees that were incurred as a outcome of this.”
Escambia County Attorney Alison Rogers experienced not seen the grievance until eventually contacted by the News Journal on Monday and explained her office would evaluate the grievance and “reply accordingly.”
The complaint quotes commissioners at earlier meetings declaring they would help paying out Underhill’s expenses when the scenario was resolved, like opinions created by Commissioner Jeff Bergosh.
“The point of the matter is … experienced this not been appealed … we would have experienced to pay back,” Bergosh is quoted as indicating in the complaint for the duration of a November 2019 conference. “In any other case, I have no question that this would have been taken to the courtroom, and we would have been compelled to pay back, and then we would have been spending even extra.”
Bergosh advised the Information Journal on Monday that a good deal has happened given that that conference in 2019, such as more lawsuits involving Underhill’s community information.
Bergosh extra that the grievance does not point out that at that November 2019 assembly, he made a movement to approve building an account that would have reimbursed Underhill’s lawful service fees if he was profitable in defending the situation, with the provision that Underhill spend all of his authorized bills on time until finally the case was concluded. That movement did not receive help from Underhill.
“My sense was, I produced a motion to do one thing I imagined was good in 2019,” Bergosh reported. “Commissioner Underhill sat appropriate there and let it die for lack of a second. Now, quickly, he would like to occur and get funds, and there’s been a ton of lawful activity because then, that frankly, he’s contributed to which is costing us revenue. And when he would make his motion (very last week), it appears like an EF Hutton industrial. No 1 tends to make a audio. It’s the audio of silence.”
In accordance to a letter sent by the regulation agency to the county in December, which was integrated in the grievance, Underhill has compensated $12,739 of the $23,465 in lawful costs he owes to the McDonald Fleming regulation agency.
Underhill told the Information Journal he was sued for “telling the reality.”
“Loaded and impressive persons will not like that in this city, but the courts have said that it can be lawful,” Underhill stated. “And not only is it authorized, but it can be essentially my position as a commissioner to do that. So, the Board of County Commissioners did not have the discretion to say no.”
Underhill reported the commissioners and county lawyer knew that if the service fees were being not authorized past week, “it was an complete certainty” a lawsuit would be filed.
“The taxpayers will proceed to spend additional because the commissioners did not have the bravery to stand up to the identical highly effective people,” Underhill mentioned.
Jim Minimal can be arrived at at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.
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