Legal bill cheaper than lawsuit, Eagle County says |

Legal bill cheaper than lawsuit, Eagle County says

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Can a $57,000 legal bill be a bargain? In Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu’s opinion, it is if it heads off an even more expensive bill to defend a lawsuit.

Eagle County spend roughly $57,000 last year ” spent with the Denver-based law firm of Hogan and Hartson ” to file a “friend of the court” brief. That brief was part of an appeal of a district judge’s ruling that, in part, invalidated virtually every election held since 1992 to relieve local governments of some of the restrictions imposed by a state constitutional amendment called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

“That means everyone’s TABOR questions for the last 16 years are invalid,” Treu said.

The reason the county joined the appeal of that ruling ” and paid the bill for the brief ” is that the ruling was part of a larger decision that struck down a bill passed by the Colorado Legislature that lifted TABOR restrictions from state school districts.

“There’s no guarantee that the (Colorado) Supreme Court would have ruled on our issue if we didn’t file the brief,” Treu said.

And, Treu said, if the state’s high court didn’t rule on the broader question of those TABOR elections, there was a good chance a local group would have sued the county in an attempt to force refunds of taxes collected for more than a decade.

“Compared to the cost of defending that, this bill is a bargain,” Treu said.

While the state’s high court considers appeals of the entire ruling, it has issued its own ruling that essentially puts any action on hold until it makes a decision.

When the state Supreme Court does make a decision, it may be the final word.

“I think that (bill) is it,” County Commissioner Jon Stavney said.

Treu, though, isn’t so sure.

“It just depends what the ruling is,” he said.

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