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ANDERSON — During an at times contentious meeting, the Madison County Council remained entrenched in not providing additional funding to hire a county attorney.

The County Council on Tuesday denied for a second time a request from Kelly Gaskill, president of the Board of County Commissioners, to transfer $50,000 from Group Insurance to attorney fees.

A motion by Councilman Ben Gale was approved to provide an additional $9,517 for the commissioners to hire an attorney for the final two months of the year.

In August, the council approved $25,000 to pay for legal representation for the county.

Gale said the $9,517 was to cover a claim and, with the remaining $5,734, provided the commissioners with $15,251 through the end of the year.

Gaskill said it was not adequate funding with pending litigation the county is facing.

At the Board of Commissioners’ September meeting, Gaskill made a motion to sign a contract with the Indianapolis law firm of Bose McKinney & Evans to represent the county at a cost of $3,500 for one meeting a month.

That motion died for the lack of a second.

Having no legal counsel, the commissioners tabled all the items on their agenda.

“Pending litigation can’t be prioritized. That is not adequate funding,” Gaskill said of the $15,000 for two months.

For 2020, the council approved $150,000 for legal fees but the cost has grown to approximately $500,000.

Gaskill said there was a $47,000 settlement at the start of the year and the county has spent $157,000 in a “frivolous lawsuit” over the redistricting of the boundaries for the commissioner districts this year.

“Use it wisely over the next two months,” Council President Pete Heuer said of the $15,000.

Heuer said Gaskill should sign the necessary paperwork for the county to receive reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses from the state and to sign a plat requested for the Springbrook housing addition.

“We need to get through the next three months,” he said.

Councilman Anthony Emery asked what the $15,000 would cover for the next two months.

Gaskill said it would pay for one meeting a month and general legal work.

“Is there any hope of getting something passed?” Emery said of a new contract with Bose McKinney & Evans.

Gaskill said she didn’t know.

Heuer said if there is pending litigation the commissioners need to meet with a committee of the council to discuss the monetary needs.

“My concern is taking care of business,” Emery said.

Gaskill said she would have been happy if the County Council had approved a transfer of $25,000 to cover legal costs.

Heuer said the funds are being appropriated for day-to-day operations of the county, not pending litigation.

He said council members wanted to meet with the commissioners to discuss legal fees, but without legal counsel the commissioners wouldn’t schedule a meeting.

“It’s time the commissioners stepped up,” Heuer said.

The prior contract provided for Bose McKinney & Evans to be paid $12,500 per month, not including expenses for pending or threatened litigation.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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