City inks police deal with housing authority

Published 9:59 am Friday, October 14, 2011

Resident questions legal fees for Rist case

The City of Ironton will continue to provide extra police protection to the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority on an as-needed basis.

The city council Thursday night suspended the rules and unanimously approved an ordinance that provides specialized patrols in the city’s housing projects at a cost of $15,000 a year.

This is a continuation of a contract that has been in effect at least four years, Mayor Rich Blankenship said after the meeting.

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“This has worked well for our city,” Councilman Frank Murphy said in asking that the rules be suspended and the ordinance approved.

A resolution to officially oppose State Issue 2 was withdrawn. Councilman Bob Cleary, who sponsored the resolution, said he wanted more time to study the issue before asking the city to take a stand on it.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Susan Thompson, of South Fifth St., asked how much money the city had spent on legal fees in the Beth Rist case. Rist, a former police officer, was fired in 2008 for writing a traffic citation to someone other than the driver.

Since then she has taken various legal steps to get her job back and has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Most recently, a judge rejected the city’s request to throw out the lawsuit. A Nov. 14 trial date has been set in the case.

“I want to know, how much is this costing us for all the motions and appeals?” she asked. “And how much do you estimate in the future?”

She said she was a concerned taxpayer and had spoken with other city taxpayers who were also concerned.

Cleary said he had done some research and when he last checked the city’s expenses were in the neighborhood of $70,000.

He asked Blankenship if this expense and any additional expenses would be covered by the city’s insurance or would it have to come out of the city budget. Blankenship said it was covered under the city’s insurance.

Cleary said he was concerned about whether the legal expenses for this case may exceed the maximum amount insurance will pay. Council went into executive session at the end of the regular meeting to discuss the lawsuit.

In other matters, finance director Kristen Martin asked for a special meeting of the city finance committee to work on a temporary budget.

She said the upcoming election may change the makeup of council and in turn, affect the finance committee, thus creating the need for a temporary budget until the new members are settled into office. The finance committee will meet at 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at the city center.

Police Chief Jim Carey said the state has amended its DUI and driving under suspension laws and because of this, city police making arrest for drunk driving and driving without insurance must use state law rather than city codes when charging such offenders.

“I went through them and I think we need to adapt city codes to mimic what the state code says,” Carey told council.