Anchorage Assembly wants ex-candidate to pay legal fees

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Despite a colleague's plea, Anchorage Assembly members have refused to back down from billing ex-Assembly candidate Robert Hayes for $1,721 owed the city for legal and collection fees in his failed legal challenge of the city election.

Last month, the city seized nearly $700 from a bank account, which turned out to belong to Hayes' 6-year-old nephew.

Assemblyman Dan Sullivan had urged forgiveness of the debt, arguing that Hayes' lawsuit raised an important public-interest question and he should not be punished for pursuing it.

''I'm asking that (the Assembly) do the right thing,'' Sullivan said at the Tuesday meeting. ''Put petty politics aside and admit there was a question out there that needed to be answered.''

The resolution to forgive Hayes' legal fees died on a 9-2 vote at the Tuesday night Assembly meeting, with only Sullivan and Assemblyman Dan Kendall supporting it.

Assembly chairman Dick Traini said city taxpayers should not have to foot the bill. Traini said that he always maintained that the winner of the suit should collect legal fees.

''Failure (for the city to collect the fees) just invites people to file lawsuits against the city and expect the city to walk away,'' Traini told the Anchorage Daily News.

In April, Hayes ran for an East Anchorage Assembly seat and finished a distant third. He filed a lawsuit contesting the qualifications of the winning candidate, Brian Whittle.

Redistricting had moved Whittle's longtime neighborhood into a new district and the city charter says candidates must live in their district for a year to be eligible to represent it.

Hayes was not the only one who questioned Whittle's residency. City Attorney Bill Greene also felt that Whittle should be disqualified. And Sullivan says that, at the time, Assembly members, including Traini, had said it should be a matter for the courts to decide

The Alaska Supreme Court sided with Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski in tossing out Hayes' lawsuit.

Michalski called the lawsuit frivolous and awarded $1,426.66 in attorney fees to the municipal clerk and the Assembly. Including collection fees, Hayes now owes the city $1,721.

The dispute boiled over last month when, in an attempt to collect the city's money, a process server discovered a Wells Fargo bank account through an assets search on Hayes.

Then it was learned that the money seized was the boy's savings account. Hayes said he is a trustee of the account.

The municipal clerk threatened to resign unless the Assembly returned the child's money, which it quickly did.

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