City of Castle Pines taxpayers funding both sides of City – Metro District legal action
Research conducted by, and article prepared by Linda Nuzum
Castle Pines taxpayers are footing the bill for attorneys, consultants, and communications efforts related to the City of Castle Pines’ 2010 court filing, which orders the Castle Pines North Metropolitan District (CPNMD) to submit a dissolution plan to the judge, and ultimately Castle Pines voters, to consider.
To date, the combined total for the city’s and metro district’s dissolution-related expenses is approximately $350,000, and citizens may expect even more to be spent in 2011 if the legal battles continue.
Obtaining this information from the metro district was painless: This citizen placed a phone call to the metro district for the documentation, got in my car, and picked up a copy within 15 minutes – at no cost to me.
The district has a budget line item for dissolution-related expenses, and thus was able to provide a detailed accounting. As of press time, expenses totaled $218,000 through November 2010. Once the December invoices are all received, the 2010 total will reach approximately $230,000. The metro district has budgeted $300,000 for 2011.
By contrast, obtaining the documentation from the city proved to be a greater challenge. The city does not specifically account for the dissolution effort; it is all included in general budget categories such as “legal” and “city council communications.” After significant effort, research, and number crunching, I was able to estimate that the city has spent approximately $135,000 to date, with most of December’s invoices still to be accounted for. The city does not have a projection for 2010 total, or a budget for 2011.
At the city council budget hearing in November, I suggested that it would be helpful for both the council and the public to know how much was being spent on special legal initiatives such as this. Former mayor and current city council representative Maureen Shul responded that the council was certainly aware of the expenses and did not need a separate accounting. Former treasurer and current city council member Doug Gilbert also responded, indicating that the metro action was not a lawsuit, but merely an administrative matter. Council member John Ewing informed me that the expenses were a matter of public record if any citizen was interested in obtaining them.
So this citizen set about to discover the effort to obtain public records from the city. I began by first completing a Public Records Request Form, identifying each of the parties and firms that might have billed time on this issue. Then I requested copies of each of the invoices.
More than a week later, the city responded, requiring a research fee for staff time to assemble the information, which in this case totaled more than $360. The city also requird a photo copy fee, which totaled more than $10. The city provided a summary of the city attorney’s invoices (citing confidentiality of the detail) and copies of the other invoices. No totals were provided, so I broke out the calculator and began adding. Note: Nuzum’s spreadsheets are posted at www.castlepinesconnection.com.
Any records compiled and obtained for this article are now a matter of public record and can be obtained from the city with no additional administrative cost other than copying fees.
So there you have it, or at least what we could get of it. While the cost questions have been answered, you may be left wondering why all the legal action is happening in the first place? Why are we suing ourselves with our own money?
To learn more about the on-going legal action between the city and the metro district, read “Why are we suing ourselves?”