Routt County disputes sheriff’s fees

Commissioners in suit with law firm about $16,000 in legal costs

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— The law offices of Ralph Cantafio are going after the Routt County Board of Commissioners for $16,000 in unpaid legal fees stemming from disagreements between the commissioners and Sheriff Gary Wall.

In February, Cantafio filed a lawsuit to try to force the county to pay the fees he said the county owes him after commissioners reportedly directed Wall to find independent counsel. The lawsuit states that in 2007, Wall was told to find counsel, and in spring 2009, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office hired Cantafio’s firm for legal representation concerning the possibility of pay cuts for sheriff’s deputies.

“Despite req­uests for payment in full … and presentation of the invoice by sheriff Wall, the (Board of Commissioners) refused payment and continues to refuse payment as to the outstanding portion of this legal bill, despite its having appropriated monies through the budgeting process for such purpose,” the complaint from Cantafio states.

The county, through County Attorney John Merrill, filed a motion to dismiss the case and to demand more information in early March, stating that no contract exists and that Cantafio failed to say how the county benefited from the legal services under an argument of implied contract. The implied contract argument by Cantafio states that the county should pay even though no formal contract was signed.

The county’s response also states that if the case isn’t dismissed, Wall should be added as a party because he was the direct client.

Cantafio’s office “has an attorney-client relationship with the sheriff, with whom it has an express, executed contract,” Merrill’s response states. “No party other than the sheriff is identified in the fee agreement as being responsible for the payment of legal fees incurred by the sheriff.”

Cantafio’s office responded that the Sheriff’s Office has no legal authority to pay its bills independently, so the payment must come from the Board of Commissioners.

The attempt to include the sheriff in the case “seeks only to politicize this issue,” the reply states.

Wall said he is not involved in the case, and Mark Fischer, an attorney in Cantafio’s firm, agreed that the sheriff is not directly involved in the litigation.

Fischer said the suit is still in the preliminary stages. Can­tafio’s suit seeks the $16,000 in payments, plus legal fees and any costs.

No court date has been set.

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