ELKHART — In recent years, the Elkhart City Council had not set aside any money for legal expenses, but that will likely change next year.
Two recent incidents in which some members of the city council members say they were hampered by the lack of legal advice and cooperation from Mayor Dick Moore led to a sense of frustration and a proposal to include $15,000 in next year’s council budget for legal advice.
Council president Ron Troyer confirmed the council will seek $15,000 in the budget.
The use of the funds would require council approval ahead of time, Troyer said.
The council will begin three days of budget meetings on Sept. 17. Moore is expected to release his proposed budget soon.
Republicans were rebuffed by the city’s lead attorney last month when they sought assistance in drafting a sewer ordinance that became an alternative to Moore’s own plan. Moore contends legal support from the administration’s attorney for council objectives should not be expected when the council is crafting policy that he does not support.
The council was turned away again when it sought advice from a legal expert the Moore administration had paid to — in part — to make a presentation to the council on utility and annexation issues connected to the sewer dispute.
Moore also used the expert, Nicholas Kile, in preparing his ordinance that seeks to establish a sewer policy and develop an aggressive annexation plan. As a result, Moore argued, the council should not expect the same attorney to work on an alternative ordinance.
Meanwhile, Moore is still upset over the council’s use of an unnamed attorney to draft Republican David Henke’s sewer ordinance that sought to establish a 15-percent surcharge.
Henke’s plan was adopted by the council but soon vetoed by Moore, who contended it would not stand up to a legal challenge if established.
Moore used a public records request aimed at Henke and then another one aimed at the five council members who supported Henke’s ordinance in an attempt to determine the name of the attorney. The requests yielded no name and very little information.
Henke had declined to identify the attorney, who he said did the work free of charge.
Moore, though, said without the name, the ordinance has no credibility with the administration.
“The same five council members love to talk about transparency,” Moore said. “I don’t see any transparency here at all. They need to tell us who drafted the ordinance and show us his (or) her credentials.”
Henke said he was not given permission by the attorney to release the person’s name and said doing so could lead to retaliation from Moore.
Henke also contends the name is a non-issue.
“The ordinance was drafted and formatted on the basis of Indiana law,” Henke said. “This person is a municipal attorney in the state of Indiana (and) in excellence standing ... and used the foundation of the mayor’s paid expert.”