By Ken de la Bastide
The Associated Press
---- — TIPTON — Tipton County paid its attorney more than $1,000 to prepare minutes from the meetings of the county council and county commissioners, an action that raised the ire of local residents.
Several residents addressed members of the Tipton County Council Tuesday voicing opposition to a requested, additional appropriation of $11,500 from the commissioners to pay pending bills submitted by attorney John Brooke and estimated costs through the end of the year.
Council members voted to deny the appropriation, approving instead a transfer of $5,200 from an unrelated fund.
“I wish we had a commissioner here,” Councilman Jim Ashley said before the vote. “I feel we’re at a loss.”
Tipton County faces a lot of issues, Ashley said.
“This is an unfortunate expense,” he said.
Councilwoman Beth Roach said the request for funding from the commissioners was vague and would be corrected during future requests.
“The work on the minutes should have been paid from the auditor’s budget,” she said.
Roach said she was disappointed to learn Brooke billed the county $62.50 to review minutes that she prepared.
She said the $5,200 would cover Brooke’s outstanding bills and for him to continue attending the commissioner meetings through the end of the year.
Roach said if additional funds are needed, the commissioners can transfer additional funds.
Council members were informed by Auditor Greg Townsend that most of the $65,000 paid by juwi Wind for legal work involving the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm has been spent.
Sharpsville resident Nancy Carney questioned if council members had reviewed Brooke’s invoices through May 31.
Carney said there were several invoices concerning public records requests submitted to the Tipton County auditor, records that could be provided by the auditor without the attorney’s involvement.
She said an invoice from February showed Brooke billed the county $125 per hour to prepare minutes, at a total cost of $950. Carney said the county could have used part-time help in the auditor’s office at a cost of $10 per hour.
The county was billed for teleconferences conducted with Jeff Sheridan, executive director of the Tipton County Local Economic Development Organization, an expense Carney said that organization should have paid.
“The commissioners kept spending money when the fund was depleted,” she said.
Resident Jim Leffler questioned why Brooke was now attending every meeting of the commissioners, something not done in previous years.
Ashley responded Brooke was appearing at the commissioner meetings because of wind farm issues.
Former Commissioner Jane Harper said for the 2013 budget there was a request for $30,000 for attorney fees, which was reduced to the council to $15,000.
“There was no oversight over who could call the attorney,” she said. “The council wanted a policy established for the use of the attorney, something not done to date.”
Bob Edinger, a local resident, said the attorney is not being overpaid; rather, he is being asked to do work he shouldn’t be performing.