Saturday, November 01, 2014

Aha — City settles towing lawsuit after risk management analysis

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/18/2014

One of the prime reasons the City of Ottawa and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners struck a revised agreement to fund and operate the joint city-county 911 communications center in November 2013 came to light Wednesday.

Ottawa city commissioners voted 5-0 to authorize paying a settlement of $22,500 to KCAMP, Franklin County’s base insurer. KCAMP incurred about $200,000 in legal fees as the defender in a suit filed by TT&T Towing, 2534 S. Main St., Ottawa, against the county, alleging discrimination in dispatching various types of services through the 911 dispatch center, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, Bob Bezek, city attorney, told city commissioners Wednesday.

One of the prime reasons the City of Ottawa and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners struck a revised agreement to fund and operate the joint city-county 911 communications center in November 2013 came to light Wednesday.

Ottawa city commissioners voted 5-0 to authorize paying a settlement of $22,500 to KCAMP, Franklin County’s base insurer. KCAMP incurred about $200,000 in legal fees as the defender in a suit filed by TT&T Towing, 2534 S. Main St., Ottawa, against the county, alleging discrimination in dispatching various types of services through the 911 dispatch center, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, Bob Bezek, city attorney, told city commissioners Wednesday.

Based on language in the previous city-county interlocal agreement, KCAMP contended the City of Ottawa was responsible for slightly more than $100,000, which is half of the legal fees KCAMP incurred in the case, Bezek said. KCAMP filed suit against the city to try and recoup those funds.

After negotiations, KCAMP agreed to a settlement of $22,500 with the city, Bezek said.

The city’s chance of winning the case at the district court level did not look encouraging, though Bezek thought the city had a stronger case at the appellate level, he said. The city could incur more costs if the matter went to court, he said.

“This is strictly a risk management agreement,” Bezek said. “Our exposure in this case is slightly higher than six figures ... We’re looking at the city getting out of the litigation for roughly 20 percent or higher of what our total exposure is.”

One modification of the interlocal agreement approved by the city and county in November 2013 stipulates the city would be held harmless for any liability claims arising from the operation of the communications center, which is staffed by county employees.

“This is a large part of the reason that we renegotiated the contract,” Blake Jorgensen, city commissioner, said of the interlocal agreement. “We couldn’t comment on it earlier because of pending [legal] action, but that’s why we made a big deal of renegotiating the contract with the county last year. This is that aha moment.”

Mike Skidmore, mayor pro tem, agreed with Bezek’s assessment of the settlement, he said.

“As much as I hate to spend taxpayers’ money this way, I think you described it very well, Bob. This is risk management, and we avoid the risk of owing greater sums of money if we settle this now.”

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