Attorney Offers City Options Following Stormwater Fee - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Attorney Offers City Options Following Stormwater Fee

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) - The storm water saga in Jackson continues. The three plaintiffs who won the lawsuit against the city filed their attorney fees this week. And one of the requests was far more than city officials expected.

Brian Surgener, is the owner of Jackson Coffee Company and an attorney. He represented himself and one of the other two plaintiffs. In a 23-page brief filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals this week, Surgener argues that the City should pay him $2.8 million dollars to be split with the other two plaintiffs.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals, handed down earlier this month, ordered the city to stop collecting the storm water fee and to repay the plaintiffs any fees they paid as well as reasonable attorney fees. None of the three plaintiffs paid the storm water fees they were charged.

According to Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin, attorneys for Jackson County, the first plaintiff to file suit, requested a little more than $140,000 to cover the cost of their services. Griffin says it works out to be an hourly rate of $295.

In his brief, Surgener offered three options to the Court, but requested it consider first ordering the City pay the total amount it collected in stormwater fees, which he indicates is $2.8 million. The other two options are more in line with his actual attorney fees. If the Court awards Surgener his first choice, he stands to gain more than $900,000.

In his brief, Surgener argues that under a legal precedent called "common fund" all Jackson property owners "realized a financial gain at the expense and work exerted by plaintiffs and their attorneys."

Surgener writes that the plaintiffs took on a significant amount of risk, both financial and personal. Because property owners will never again be required to pay a storm water fee, and to prevent the City from being "unjustly enriched," Surgener argues the plaintiffs are entitled to equitable restitution.

Griffin says most of the money paid by property owners for the fee was used  to pay for stormwater-related services, such as leaf pick-up and street sweeping, when it was collected.

"We don't have a pile of cash sitting somewhere with $2.8 million in stormwater fees," Griffin said.

According to court documents submitted by the City's attorneys, the City collected $2.3 million in the utility fee.

Earlier this month, Surgener filed a separate class action lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of all property owners who paid the fee and this week he offered the city a settlement in that suit. Thursday attorneys for the City filed a brief rejecting Surgener's offer.

6 News was in contact with Surgener to ask him to further explain his request for the $2.8 million. In an email, he wrote: "My brief explains it all."

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