Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis and Councilman John Greene want to know if taxpayers can pay their legal expenses for contesting the vote count. The law is crystal clear, and the answer is no.
The Wellington council will request an opinion from the attorney general, but ten minutes of research will disclose that the attorney general has already rendered an opinion in an almost identical case.
I rely primarily on Markham v. State By and Through Dept. of Revenue. There was a recount, Markham won and wanted taxpayers to pay his legal bills. Sound familiar? The attorney general said no. The circuit court judge said no, and the supreme court said no.
The fact is that the village attorney initially gave the correct legal advice, but some members of the council are not satisfied and want to spend taxpayer money for a private attorney to give a different opinion. If taxpayers end up paying any of these bills, there is likely to be a lawsuit and more wasted taxpayer money.
The judge in the Markham case wrote that an ordinance to reimburse legal fees of candidates is a wrongful appropriation of funds, and concluded, “We hold that an election contest between opposing candidates for an office, arising out of a challenge directed to specific votes sufficient in number to change the result of the election, is personal between the candidates and litigants and is not an official duty of the candidate holding the office and serves no public purpose justifying the expenditure of public funds incident thereto.”
Now is that clear enough for a fifth grader?
Frank J. Morelli, Wellington