Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill is suing Escambia County for more than $23,000 in lawful charges he incurred in productively defending a defamation lawsuit.
In July, the Initial District Court docket of Enchantment upheld a ruling by Escambia Circuit Courtroom Decide Stephen Pitre that Underhill had immunity from a lawsuit filed by Scott Miller over Underhill’s opinions on Facebook about Miller’s involvement with the Rolling Hills landfill in the Wedgewood neighborhood.
Pitre ruled that Underhill’s remarks on Fb were being a dialogue of public county coverage and, consequently, component of his work as a county commissioner.
Very last 7 days, Underhill requested his fellow county commissioners to vote to spend his lawful service fees in the circumstance, but none of the other commissioners would second the merchandise or even communicate on it, which means it died with no a vote.
Underhill’s attorneys, Todd Harris and Ed Fleming of the McDonald Fleming law firm, filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon on behalf of Underhill, demanding the county follow its coverage to fork out for the lawful protection of commissioners sued more than a little something “within just the scope of their duties.”
The policy, adopted in 2014, says the county will fork out for legal fees for commissioners if certain problems are met.
Underhill’s attorney argued that with the court’s remaining ruling, all of the disorders required beneath the county coverage had been fulfilled.
“Beneath the Plan, Underhill has a distinct authorized correct to have the Board shell out his acceptable attorney’s costs and costs,” the complaint states. “As soon as the demands of the Coverage were achieved, the Board experienced a clear authorized obligation to comply with its have policy about payment of attorney’s charges and charges.”
Fleming supplied the News Journal with a copy of the grievance, but declined to remark more on the scenario. Fleming did look ahead of the County Fee very last 7 days and mentioned the courtroom has settled no matter whether Underhill’s reviews on social media had been portion of his job as a county commissioner.
“4 judges have looked at it, a trial court docket judge and three appellate judges, they all mentioned that it was (section of his position),” Fleming claimed. “That problem are unable to be challenged any more. It is ‘res judicata.’ It really is the rule of the situation. It truly is the rule of legislation. I would request that you apply the rule of law — your rules — as you would to any person else. Put personalities apart and reimburse any attorneys costs that were being incurred as a outcome of this.”
Escambia County Attorney Alison Rogers experienced not viewed the complaint right until contacted by the News Journal on Monday and stated her office would critique the criticism and “react accordingly.”
The complaint offers commissioners at previous meetings expressing they would assistance paying out Underhill’s service fees the moment the scenario was decided, which includes comments built by Commissioner Jeff Bergosh.
“The simple fact of the matter is … experienced this not been appealed … we would have experienced to pay back,” Bergosh is quoted as indicating in the complaint through a November 2019 assembly. “Usually, I have no doubt that this would have been taken to the court, and we would have been compelled to spend, and then we would have been having to pay even more.”
Bergosh explained to the News Journal on Monday that a whole lot has occurred since that conference in 2019, including far more lawsuits involving Underhill’s public data.
Bergosh included that the criticism doesn’t mention that at that November 2019 meeting, he created a motion to approve creating an account that would have reimbursed Underhill’s legal service fees if he was effective in defending the circumstance, with the provision that Underhill spend all of his lawful costs on time till the circumstance was concluded. That movement did not obtain assist from Underhill.
“My sense was, I produced a movement to do one thing I imagined was good in 2019,” Bergosh mentioned. “Commissioner Underhill sat suitable there and permit it die for absence of a second. Now, all of a sudden, he would like to come and get income, and there’s been a ton of lawful action considering that then, that frankly, he’s contributed to which is costing us revenue. And when he helps make his motion (past 7 days), it seems like an EF Hutton commercial. No 1 would make a seem. It is the seem of silence.”
According to a letter sent by the regulation organization to the county in December, which was provided in the complaint, Underhill has paid out $12,739 of the $23,465 in legal costs he owes to the McDonald Fleming legislation company.
Underhill told the News Journal he was sued for “telling the truth.”
“Loaded and highly effective individuals really don’t like that in this city, but the courts have explained that it is really authorized,” Underhill explained. “And not only is it legal, but it truly is in fact my career as a commissioner to do that. So, the Board of County Commissioners did not have the discretion to say no.”
Underhill mentioned the commissioners and county legal professional realized that if the service fees were not authorised very last 7 days, “it was an complete certainty” a lawsuit would be submitted.
“The taxpayers will carry on to pay much more due to the fact the commissioners did not have the braveness to stand up to the exact potent individuals,” Underhill claimed.
Jim Minor can be arrived at at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.
Subscribe now employing the hyperlink at the bottom of this web page and never ever pass up a tale.