"Washington Township has spent about $20,000 fighting a local woman's poor-relief application for $758.27 to pay her rent and water bills.
The yearlong dispute is back in Marion Circuit Court today where there might finally be a resolution to case that seems almost certain to become fodder in the ongoing statewide debate over whether Indiana's 1,008 township governments are effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Washington Township Trustee Frank Short said he chose to devote so much time and money to the lawsuit because the verdict might have bearing on future cases.
"If there was a ruling in the case one way or the other and it affected the way we handed out emergency assistance dollars going forward," Short said, "that might be worth it."
He also said there was principle involved. Others are more concerned about the, well, principal involved.
"It looks as if the trustee is trying to make a point in this particular case, but it's going to be an extremely expensive point," said Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause Indiana. "From my perspective as a good government advocate -- and as a Washington Township taxpayer -- perhaps it would have been better to just go ahead and pay the rent."
Washington Township rejected Layana Cooper's request for emergency aid in December 2008 on the grounds that it was identical to a failed aid application she had made in October. "
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Washington Township Trustee Spends $20,000 to Fight $758 Claim
Today's Indianapolis Star brought a story that Washington Township Trustee Frank Short has spent $20,000 in attorney's fees defending against a poor relief claim for $758:
To read the rest of the article, click here:
I don't know enough about the case to know whether the legal point Short is trying to make is worth the cost. What I strongly question though is why Short would hire the highly expensive, politically-connected law firm Ice Miller when there are literally hundreds of attorneys in the city quite capable of handling the simple legal issues in this case as well or better than Ice Miller attorneys for a fraction of what that politically-connected law firm would charge.
Big law firms like Ice Miller don't dominate government legal work because they do a better job and it sure isn't because those firms are a better deal for taxpayers They get the legal work because they kick back a portion of those inflated billings to the politicians in the form of campaign contributions. If those contributions were not coming in, the legal work would dry up quickly. It is as close to pay to play as you can get without there being a quid pro quo.
How long are we going to look the other way while big law firms like Ice Miller, Barnes & Thornburg and others continue to fleece local units of government, i.e. taxpayers?