City Could Be Exempt From Paying Councilman's Legal Bills
If council deems Tom Getzendanner's actions were "willful misconduct," the city could be exempt from paying legal bills.
The city is investigating under what circumstances it may be exempt from paying one councilman's legal bills if he is investigated for official misconduct by the Union County Prosecutor's Office.
The council voted 5-2 March 1 to officially request the Union County Prosecutor to investigate three-term Councilman Tom Getzendanner for his alleged official misconduct in late 2010. Getzendanner was accused of asking City Solicitor Barry Osmun to alter the dates on his legal bills in order to obtain additional reimbursement for the city. The city hired former Union County Superior Court Judge Edward Beglin to conduct an investigation into these allegations and a report on the judge's findings revealed Getzendanner did in fact ask the city's attorney to commit insurance fraud.
Resident Brett Haire questioned the council Tuesday night as to who would be footing the bills for Getzendanner's defense if the County Prosecutor decides to pursue the case.
Osmun explained that city code requires the city to provide defense for any city employee, including an elected official, in legal matters and to pay fines or penalties associated with any judgments or settlements, except when the council decides that person's actions were "actual fraud," "willful misconduct" or "malice."
Councilman Michael Vernotico urged Council President Dave Bomgaars to consider making this determination now so both Getzendanner and the residents are clear who would be paying these expenses.
"My reading of the ordinance suggests that our actions to date suggest that Mr. Getzendanner's legal bills should be Mr. Getzendanner's, not the city of Summit's," Vernotico said.
Bomgaars said he and several other council members had not reviewed the city code and felt it was premature to discuss this issue at the present time. Councilwoman Ellen Dickson agreed.
"What I voted on was not to refer it to the county prosecutor," Dickson said. "I thought the judge did a decent job flushing out the issues and that was what the vote was about, whether or not to refer it to the county prosecutor."
Dickson and Getzendanner were the two dissenting votes March 1.
Getzendanner has refused to resign despite pleas from residents and Mayor Jordan Glatt to end the distractions and let the city get on with its business.
City Administrator Chris Cotter said the request for the county prosecutor to investigate Getzendanner has been submitted. No response, other than acknowledgement of receipt, has been received yet from prosecutor's office.