Stuart v. Scottsdale: City legal costs approach $500,000 to fight lawsuits

The Scottsdale City Council has approved additional funds to fight two law suits. (File photo)

Scottsdale City Council has further approved funds, totaling nearly half-a-million dollars, for the defense of two pending court cases in United States District Court.

On April 15, City Council approved on consent the authorization of legal fees to be incurred with the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC in an amount not to exceed $490,000 for the defense of Stuart v. City of Scottsdale and Save our Preserve Political Action Committee of Scottsdale v. City of Scottsdale.

The council previously approved a contract with Dickinson Wright providing for the firm to represent the city in matters including the Stuart case in an amount not to exceed $290,000. Council has now been asked to approve an additional $200,000 on the contract for total attorneys’ fees and costs.

This is not a fixed-price contract, so the full amount being requested may not be expended, a city staff report stated. If the full amount is expended and further funds are needed, another request will be made of City Council.

According to the city staff report, plaintiffs allege the municipality, its officers and its employees have engaged in a conspiracy to violate the plaintiff’s civil rights by preventing the plaintiff(s) for advocating in favor of an initiative petition to prevent development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Plaintiffs seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. The plaintiffs also filed a second lawsuit against the city and several individually named council members, officers and employees of the city, the city staff report stated.

Litigation in both matters is ongoing.

According to city staff, a decision was made to send these two cases to outside counsel for further handling due to resources available to the city.

The policy of the City Attorney’s Office is to handle litigation in-house, unless certain exceptions are present including specialized expertise not available, or a conflict of interest.

These two cases exceeded the resources available to the city, the staff report stated, citing the original complaint contained 220 paragraphs and alleged a total of 19 claims against the city, the mayor and City Council, their spouses, and 10 other city officers and employees and their spouses.

This included a claim for immediate emergency relief that required significant research and briefing by multiple attorneys over a single weekend.

Additionally, the plaintiffs have since filed an amended complaint spanning 556 paragraphs and alleging 21 claims against the same city defendants, the staff report stated.

Save our Preserve filed a second action in federal court, which has been transferred to the same judge handling the first action.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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