January 20, 2018

Settlement reached in senior center lawsuit

Posted

WEST BRANCH — A settlement was reached in the lawsuit West Branch and Edwards townships had brought against the city of West Branch due to a contract dispute regarding the former Page Street Senior Center.

The townships sued the city in March for breach of contract, alleging the city failed to provide senior services at the former senior center per the contract, which states “senior activities” would be provided through Dec. 31, 2020. The townships, together, were requesting damages in excess of $100,000.

The final agreement will see the city pay the townships’ attorney $105,050. Edwards Township Supervisor Jeff Keister said at the township’s Dec. 11 meeting that the payment would then be divided between the townships, though he did not say how it would be split.

West Branch City Manager Heather Grace told the Herald Dec. 12 that the city originally proposed settlement amounts with each township individually.

“$96,800 was approved as a settlement amount for West Branch Township and $8,250 was approved as a settlement amount for Edwards Township, for a total settlement of $105,050,” Grace said. “Rather than individually accept the amounts offered to them, both townships agreed to accept the amount of $105,050 payable to their attorney within 30 days of the mediation. I can only assume that they chose to accept a joint figure as opposed to our individual offers because they had a side agreement to split the money differently than we offered it to them, but I don’t know that for a fact.”

West Branch Township Supervisor Ryan Veeder declined to comment on the change, but Keister said it was because the townships went into the lawsuit as partners.

“Both townships had numbers we were willing to settle at,” Keister said. “We entered as a group. We were satisfied with the amount we’re going to get. We’re getting what we deemed acceptable.”

Keister declined to say how much the township would receive from the settlement, saying negotiations were held in closed session and thus could not be disclosed at least until the judge approves the settlement.

At the mediation session, which was open to the public, both Edwards and West Branch townships’ boards approved the settlement, with Edwards voting unanimously and West Branch Township voting 4-1 with Veeder voting no. The city did not have a quorum at the meeting, and will vote whether to approve the settlement amount at its Dec. 18 meeting. It had, however, previously authorized settlement talks.

Veeder would not specifically say Monday why he voted no.

“Basically what I said (at the settlement talks) was there’s so many reasons I voted no,” he told the Herald. “At the end of the day, I think we did a poor job of representing our taxpayers and their tax dollars.”

Grace told the Herald the payment would be made from the city’s general fund, as the city’s insurance does not cover contractual disputes.

The Herald reported in October that the townships had spent more than $20,000 combined in legal fees up to that point. Edwards Township had spent $9,243.50 in legal fees as of October. Edwards Township Clerk Dennis Stephens told the Herald Tuesday the final estimate of legal costs to Edwards Township specifically related to the lawsuit was $18,800, though he expected that estimate to be highly accurate.

Keister would not answer specifically whether the amount the township will receive would cover the legal expenses, but he implied it would.

“We’re not going to settle for less,” he said. “The number agreed upon satisfies what was needed.”

West Branch Township was reported in October as having spent $13,106.52. Veeder told the Herald Monday that as of the last time he had spoken to the attorney, the township had spent $23,052 toward the lawsuit, but that may not be the final number.

As for the city of West Branch, Grace told the Herald in October that it had spent $6,142.50 at that time in legal fees, but that was a high estimate. Since that time, Grace said the city had been billed an additional $108.75 for a total of $6,251.25. But that amount is only current through Nov. 25, which means there will be additional fees.

“It was a good learning process for us, mediation,” Keister said at the Edwards Township meeting Monday. “I’m glad we’re done with it too.”

“I hope we’re done with it and we don’t have any more legal expenses,” added township Trustee Brent Illig.

Comments

Please review our community guidelines before posting

Please keep comments on topic and appropriate for all ages. Remember that people of all ages read our website. Those that are not appropriate will be removed. Please read our full community guidelines before posting.

1 comment on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
NorthernMichiganGuy

Why did the City of West Branch actually break the contract?....Seems like the City of West Branch is very wasteful of taxpayers Money. Didn’t realize the City coffers were overloaded!

Saturday, December 16, 2017 | Report this

Copyright © 2018, Sunrise Publishing. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.