Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill is suing Escambia County for far more than $23,000 in authorized charges he incurred in productively defending a defamation lawsuit.
In July, the First District Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by Escambia Circuit Courtroom Decide Stephen Pitre that Underhill experienced immunity from a lawsuit submitted by Scott Miller more than Underhill’s comments on Facebook about Miller’s involvement with the Rolling Hills landfill in the Wedgewood neighborhood.
Pitre dominated that Underhill’s reviews on Fb were being a dialogue of community county policy and, therefore, component of his career as a county commissioner.
Last week, Underhill questioned his fellow county commissioners to vote to pay his legal expenses in the situation, but none of the other commissioners would 2nd the item or even discuss on it, meaning it died without the need of a vote.
Underhill’s attorneys, Todd Harris and Ed Fleming of the McDonald Fleming legislation business, filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon on behalf of Underhill, demanding the county follow its policy to spend for the legal defense of commissioners sued more than a thing “within just the scope of their duties.”
The plan, adopted in 2014, suggests the county will shell out for legal expenses for commissioners if selected problems are achieved.
Underhill’s attorney argued that with the court’s last ruling, all of the situations necessary less than the county policy experienced been fulfilled.
“Underneath the Plan, Underhill has a very clear authorized suitable to have the Board pay his realistic attorney’s fees and costs,” the criticism states. “At the time the needs of the Plan ended up satisfied, the Board had a distinct lawful duty to comply with its own policy with regards to payment of attorney’s expenses and charges.”
Fleming offered the News Journal with a duplicate of the criticism, but declined to comment more on the circumstance. Fleming did appear in advance of the County Fee previous week and stated the courtroom has settled regardless of whether Underhill’s feedback on social media have been portion of his work as a county commissioner.
“Four judges have seemed at it, a trial court docket judge and 3 appellate judges, they all mentioned that it was (aspect of his career),” Fleming reported. “That difficulty are not able to be challenged any longer. It is ‘res judicata.’ It is the rule of the case. It truly is the rule of legislation. I would inquire that you implement the rule of law — your procedures — as you would to everyone else. Set personalities aside and reimburse any attorneys fees that ended up incurred as a final result of this.”
Escambia County Lawyer Alison Rogers experienced not witnessed the criticism right until contacted by the Information Journal on Monday and stated her office would assessment the criticism and “answer appropriately.”
The grievance rates commissioners at past conferences indicating they would guidance paying Underhill’s fees once the scenario was made a decision, including remarks produced by Commissioner Jeff Bergosh.
“The reality of the make a difference is … had this not been appealed … we would have had to pay,” Bergosh is quoted as expressing in the complaint through a November 2019 assembly. “In any other case, I have no doubt that this would have been taken to the court, and we would have been compelled to pay, and then we would have been shelling out even more.”
Bergosh informed the News Journal on Monday that a good deal has occurred considering that that conference in 2019, together with additional lawsuits involving Underhill’s community data.
Bergosh additional that the grievance would not mention that at that November 2019 meeting, he designed a motion to approve producing an account that would have reimbursed Underhill’s lawful service fees if he was productive in defending the circumstance, with the provision that Underhill spend all of his lawful costs on time right until the situation was concluded. That motion did not acquire support from Underhill.
“My feeling was, I created a movement to do a little something I assumed was reasonable in 2019,” Bergosh explained. “Commissioner Underhill sat right there and let it die for deficiency of a 2nd. Now, instantly, he wants to appear and get income, and there is certainly been a lot of lawful activity due to the fact then, that frankly, he is contributed to that is costing us cash. And when he can make his motion (past 7 days), it seems like an EF Hutton professional. No a person tends to make a audio. It is the sound of silence.”
In accordance to a letter despatched by the regulation firm to the county in December, which was involved in the criticism, Underhill has paid $12,739 of the $23,465 in authorized charges he owes to the McDonald Fleming legislation agency.
Underhill informed the Information Journal he was sued for “telling the fact.”
“Prosperous and potent persons don’t like that in this city, but the courts have stated that it can be authorized,” Underhill stated. “And not only is it lawful, but it’s really my job as a commissioner to do that. So, the Board of County Commissioners did not have the discretion to say no.”
Underhill claimed the commissioners and county lawyer understood that if the fees had been not permitted past week, “it was an absolute certainty” a lawsuit would be submitted.
“The taxpayers will continue on to pay back more mainly because the commissioners did not have the courage to stand up to the exact same potent folks,” Underhill explained.
Jim Minor can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.
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