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Lake Geneva City Council members seek $90,000 in attorney fees

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Kayla Bunge
February 25, 2010
— Four city council members have filed claims against the city seeking about $90,000 in attorney fees they say they incurred defending themselves against charges filed by the mayor.

Council members Mary Jo Fesenmaier, Arleen Krohn and Penny Roehrer and former Alderman Tom Spellman are seeking reimbursement of $89,594. Fesenmaier and Spellman also are seeking reimbursement of an additional $2,100.


The council members also want reimbursement for the cost of pursuing their claims against the city at a rate of $175 an hour.


City Clerk Diana Dykstra said the papers, served to the city Tuesday, have been sent to the city’s insurance company for review. City Attorney Dan Draper said the city has 120 days to file a response.


Mayor Bill Chesen on Sept. 10 suspended Fesenmaier, Krohn, Roehrer and Spellman, accusing them of misconduct and violating the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. Chesen accused Spellman and Roehrer also of neglecting their duties.


Krohn and Roehrer were suspended until Sept. 21, when Chesen rescinded their suspensions to restore quorum to the city council.


Fesenmaier and Spellman remained suspended until Nov. 30, when Chesen rescinded their suspensions and dropped the charges against all four council members as part of an agreement reached after mediation by a Walworth County judge.


Three attorneys represented the council members during the legal battle:


-- David Williams, whom the four council members hired to file a court action to get them reinstated and to block the mayor from appointing replacements.


-- David Rasmussen, whom Fesenmaier and Spellman hired to assist with the court action to get them reinstated and to defend them against the charges.


-- Kendall Harrison, whom the four hired to defend them against the charges. He also worked with the city’s insurance company to try to get it to acknowledge coverage of the council members.


The city’s insurance company, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Mutual Insurance Company, previously said it would not cover attorney fees accumulated by the four council members in their lawsuit against the mayor but it would cover up to $50,000 for defending them against the mayor’s charges.


Rasmussen, who filed the claims on behalf of the four council members, said Wednesday he expects the city’s insurance company to dispute whether it is required to pay the attorney fees.


The insurance company also appointed two attorneys to represent the council members in any removal hearings. But the hearings never happened because the mayor dropped the charges against the council members.


According to the claims:


Godfrey & Kahn law office, where Harrison works, Oct. 26 submitted a bill to Fesenmaier, Krohn, Roehrer and Spellman for $62,124.


Williams submitted a bill to the four council members Jan. 28 for $27,470.


Rasmussen submitted a bill to Fesenmaier and Spellman on Nov. 20 for $2,100.


The attorneys declined to comment further about the costs of their services.



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