The final tally of costs to the city of Ann Arbor in connection with the Bob Dascola election lawsuit is $35,431.75. According to Tom Wieder, attorney for Dascola, the settlement agreed to on Aug. 20, 2014 for the second phase of the lawsuit was $9,400 – to be split between the city and the state of Michigan.
The city lost both phases of the litigation, which began when the city sought to enforce city charter eligibility requirements against Dascola to prevent him from being a candidate in the Ward 3 city council Democratic primary race. The election was won by Julie Grand in a three-person field that included Samuel McMullen.
The $35,431.75 amount is the total agreed to for the initial phase of the lawsuit on city charter eligibility requirements ($30,731.75), plus half the amount that was agreed to in the second phase, which involved the counting of misprinted ballots ($9,400). The other half of the $9,400 will be paid by the state of Michigan, which intervened in the second phase of the lawsuit. So the total paid to Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, will be $40,132, which includes court costs.
Fees for the initial phase of the lawsuit were settled on June 19, 2014 – at $30,731.75. That total includes attorney fees in the amount of $30,306.25 – which was the result of 93.25 hours billed at an hourly rate of $325. The remainder of that total was $425.50 – costs for filings and document retrieval.
The motion for fees in the second phase of the lawsuit was filed by Wieder on Aug. 19, 2014 and asked for a total of $12,320 based on 30.80 hours of work at $400 per hour. Wieder’s filing parcels out each item of work to either the city or the state or to both jointly. The amount was reduced to $9,400 through back-and-forth among Wieder, the state and the city, with the final settlement splitting the amount evenly between the city and the state. [.pdf of Aug. 19, 2014 motion for fees]
The initial phase of the lawsuit was decided in favor of Dascola on May 20, 2014. At issue were city charter durational requirements on voter registration and residency – that require city councilmembers to be registered to vote in the city and to be a resident of the ward they want to represent for at least a year prior to taking office. Dascola contended he met the residency requirement, but conceded that he fell short of the voter registration requirement. He did not register to vote in the city until Jan. 15, 2014. The court ruled that the requirements were not enforceable, because they’d been ruled unconstitutional in the early 1970s, and never re-enacted by the city. Dascola submitted sufficient signatures to qualify, so the impact of the ruling was that Dascola was supposed to appear on the Ward 3 ballot.
However through a series of errors, his name did not appear on the printed ballots and nearly 400 of the misprinted ballots were sent to Ward 3 absentee voters. A dispute arose over how ballots would be counted if someone did not return one of the replacement ballots. The state of Michigan intervened on behalf of the Bureau of Elections, which told the city to go ahead and count the ballots. But on July 22, 2014 the federal court ruled that such ballots should not be counted.
The kind of city charter eligibility requirements that triggered the lawsuit in the first place should not become an issue in the future, if Ann Arbor voters approve charter amendments that the city council has voted to place on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot.