Rowan County set to approve attorneys fees in prayer lawsuit

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 6, 2019

By Andie Foley

Following a closed session, Rowan County commissioners on Monday are expected to publicly approve a final settlement amount related to attorneys fees in their prayer lawsuit.

The settlement amount is specifically for attorney fees amassed by the prevailing party — plaintiffs Nan Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker as represented by the ACLU.

Responding to a Friday article in the Post regarding the suit, North Carolina ACLU spokesperson Mike Meno said the county had already been ordered by NC’s Middle District Court to pay $285,000 in fees, which is more than Forsyth County faced as a result of losing a similar suit.

District Judge Catherine C. Eagles filed the order on Dec. 21, which requires Rowan pay the sum within 30 days of the filing date.

County attorney Jay Dees said the number was presented as a “good faith number” in December.

“It was and remains my understanding and that of our (Board of Commissioners) that this final proposed settlement amount … was … subject to the (board) taking up the matter formally and in open session Monday,” he said.

He said the number had been hashed out through direct communications between the ACLU and Rowan County’s outside counsel.

“Outside counsel and I have advised, received direction from, and provided updates to the (board) to reach a good faith number,” Dees said.

In other business from Monday’s agenda:

  • Commissioners will hold a public hearing for a transportation grant application change.

The North Carolina Public Transportation Division has requested that Rowan move its current grant request to a new program that will change the required local match from an 80-20 split to 50-50

  • Commissioners will hear a presentation on the county’s 2018 fiscal year audit.

Highlights of the audit include the county’s $65.4 million end-of-year fund balance, which partially functions as a savings account, with 52.8 percent restricted; its $14.1 million increase in general obligation and installment financing debt, a key factor being $27.5 million for the new elementary school; and its AA+ bond rating from Fitch Ratings, AA2 bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, and AA- rating from Standard and Poor’s Corporation.

  • Commissioners could appoint eight people to seven local boards and commissions.

These include Richard Franklin to the Airport Advisory Board; William Kyles to the Ellis Cross Country Volunteer Fire Department Board of Trustees; Mitchel Rousey to the Enochville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Commissioners; Matthew Owen to the Parks and Recreation Commission; Gary Freeze to the Rowan Public Library Board; Timothy Proper and Gregory Anderson to the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission; and Keith Knight to the Rowan County Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The commissioners will meet at 3 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the Rowan County Administration Building, 130 W. Innes St.