COUNCIL VOTES TO REIMBURSE OFFICIALS FOR LEGAL BILLS
MARISA AGHA, Pioneer Press
September 24, 2002

Roseville leaders agreed Monday night to changes in an ordinance that allows for the reimbursement of city officials' legal fees.

In a 3-2 vote, the City Council approved the revisions, stating that the city "provide defense or reimburse legal fees'' for its elected and appointed officials. A group of "disinterested'' council members or individuals will decide any disputes about eligibility or the scope of coverage under the ordinance, according to the new language."It's not inconsistent with the state statute,'' said City Attorney Joel Jamnik.

The council has yet to discuss whether the city will pay for legal fees incurred from the criminal proceedings facing Mayor John Kysylyczyn, charged earlier this month with misconduct and conflict of interest for voting to pay his own legal bills.

In addition, the revised ordinance calls for the reimbursement of "any elected official who takes legal action against the city or its employees or officials for failure to provide public information'' -- a change added at the mayor's request, Jamnik said.

Council Members Dean Maschka and Craig Klausing opposed the changes.

"I'm troubled that basically this is carte blanche for public officials to engage in misconduct and have taxpayers foot the bill,'' Klausing said.

Kysylyczyn and Council Members Tom Kough and Greg Schroeder supported the revisions. Jamnik said it was not a conflict of interest for the mayor to vote on the revision to the ordinance.

"It guarantees some protections for elected officials,'' Kysylyczyn said. "I don't think anyone runs for this office expecting to be attacked every week and to be financially attacked.''

By press time, the council did not get to the issue of whether to waive attorney-client privilege for Jamnik, a potential witness in Kysylyczyn's pending criminal trial. Some council members have argued that a council vote waiving the privilege would enable Jamnik to discuss how he advised Kysylycyzn on the issue of voting to pay his legal bills.

The attorney-client privilege protects the confidentiality of discussions between a client and his or her attorney. Jamnik and Kysylyczyn declined to answer investigators' questions about their discussions, according to the criminal complaint.

Kysylyczyn recused himself the last time the council took up the matter two weeks ago.

Regardless of the council's decision, White Bear Lake city prosecutor Doug Meslow, who filed the charges, said he plans to ask a judge to determine whether the attorney-client privilege applies in this case.

"My interpretation of the law is that the privilege doesn't apply,'' Meslow said. "Whether they (the council) take action or not, I'm going to the judge.''

The mayor's first court appearance is set for Oct. 23 in Maplewood.

Marisa Agha, who covers north suburban Ramsey County, can be reached at magha@pioneerpress.com or (651) 228-2109.

2002 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.twincities.com