By Tom Sullivan
MSD paid $1,108,439 to its law firm, Kohn, Shands, Elbert, Gianoulakis & Giljum, to defend the lawsuit and $5,259,192 for costs and legal fees to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were represented by the Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale law firm. Richard R. Hardcastle III was the lead attorney.
The lawsuit, Zweig, et al v. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, was filed by Zweig after the stormwater charges were enacted by MSD in 2007.
The information on total legal costs was provided to Tom Sullivan last week by MSD. (See below.) Sullivan is a University City resident who has followed sewer district operations for a number of years.
“MSD has irresponsibly spent millions of dollars of public money trying to be even less accountable to the public,” said Sullivan. “This is the same sewer district that so often tells residents it has no funds to fix their sewer or stormwater problems.”
Sullivan warned the board in 2007 that the stormwater rate increases would be unlawful without voter approval. When the case went to the Missouri Supreme Court last year he wrote in a letter to the Post-Dispatch: “If the Missouri Supreme Court rules that MSD’s contrived stormwater charges do not require voter approval, the court will be shredding the Missouri Constitution rather than defending it.”
MSD Chairman James H. Buford is the only current board member who was on the board in 2007. Along with other board members at the time, he voted to enact the stormwater charges. Succeeding boards have supported the charges and continued the defense of the Zweig lawsuit.
The legal issue was whether the stormwater charges are a user fee, which would not require voter approval or a tax, which would. The Supreme Court ruling determined the charges were a tax:
However, a tax by any other name remains a tax. It cannot be transformed into a user fee by adept packaging, any more than a zoologist can transform a horse into a zebra with a bucket of paint. Here, no matter how many stripes MSD paints on it, the stormwater charge is not a user fee.
The decision went on, “Accordingly, MSD’s decision to implement the stormwater user charge without voter approval violated(Article 10) section 22(a)” of the constitution.
For more information contact Tom Sullivan 314-732-9993