Missoula Attorney Quentin Rhoades has filed a motion to lift stay and enter a scheduling order in the Mountain Water case, as it pertains to details about the attorneys fees paid by the City of Missoula to obtain the utility through condemnation.

Rhoades filed the motion on September 25 on behalf of Sinclair Broadcast Group in the Fourth Judicial Court under District Judge Robert L. ‘Dusty’ Deschamps.

“This is the case that we filed on behalf of a media organization to try to get some more information about the $9.1 plus million dollars that the attorneys and experts charged the city for their services in the Mountain Water case,” said Rhoades. “About a year ago, Judge Deschamps had put a stay on our efforts, and his reasoning was that while Judge (Karen) Townsend was considering her final ruling on whether, and to what extent, Mountain Water would be paid for its attorneys fees. He didn’t want parallel litigation in our case, as it covered the same subject matter, and getting access to some of the documents that he thought shouldn’t be accessed until Judge Townsend had completed her decision.”

Rhoades said Judge Townsend issued her decision on the first of August.

Judge Townsend ruled that Mountain Water were not entitled to the over $1 million in attorneys fees that they were seeking.

“I asked the folks over at Boone-Karlberg on an ETA of when they thought it would be resolved and they didn’t respond to that,” he said. “So, I took that as an indication that we should go ahead and ask Judge Deschamps if we could go ahead and complete our lawsuit. We’re talking about a Constitutional right to know. We’re not just a bunch of curious folks who want to stick their noses where it doesn’t belong. We’re talking about millions of dollars of public money being spent, and we’re talking about a news corporation (Sinclair) that wants to see the details of why it cost so much for the attorneys fees.”

Rhoades said he expects Boone-Karlberg to oppose the motion to keep the information confidential for as long as possible.

“I expect them to come in with a brief opposing our motion, and then we’ll have an opportunity to submit a reply brief, and all that will happen in about a month,” he said. “From there, Judge Deschamps will have to make a decision, but there’s no time limit for him to make a decision. Much depends on his current work load.”

When the initial decision was made to pursue the condemnation and purchase of Mountain Water by the City of Missoula, Mayor Engen estimated the attorneys fees to be approximately $400,000, however after three years in court, the actual cost so far has been $9,319,646.93.

What the order is seeking is not necessarily the amount of actual legal fees, but rather the narrative between the attorneys and their clients, which is protected under the attorney-client privilege.

The city contends that the attorneys fees were built into the $88.6 million purchase price of the utility, which resulted in a bond of $101,680,000, and that all those fees are being paid through customers utility bills (which have not risen for several years), and not by Missoula taxpayers.


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