Moffat County to join class action lawsuit against Feds | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County to join class action lawsuit against Feds

Moffat County Natural Resources Department head Jeff Comstock and Moffat County Attorney Rebecca Tyree discuss a class action lawsuit against the federal government regarding money owed to multiple western counties for payment in lieu of taxes. Commissioners voted to join the suit.

CRAIG — The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners decided Tuesday, Sept. 4, it will join a class action lawsuit alongside 27 other western Colorado counties against the federal government for underpayment of payment in lieu of taxes, or PILT, for fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Commissioner Ray Beck stressed the lawsuit is separate from the Anvil Points payment recently received by the county.

Natural Resources Department head Jeff Comstock said the lawsuit was initiated by Kane County, Utah, claiming the federal government had underpaid that county's PILT money.

Kane County is similar to Moffat County, Comstock said, as it includes extensive federally owned lands. In its filing, Kane County said it was “flat out illegal” for the federal government to withhold full payment. Federal agencies make PILT payments because they do not pay property taxes to counties containing federal lands.

The lawsuit doesn’t only impact the western United States, Comstock said. It impacts every county across the country, which is why a class action lawsuit was filed and Moffat County has the opportunity to participate in it.

“First thing that came to mind when we first saw this lawsuit was the fees,” Comstock said. “Attorneys that are overseeing this are getting a third of the payment.”

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The attorneys' fees are significant, and commissioners initially wondered if the county should file a separate lawsuit, Comstock said. After learning that other counties affected by the lawsuit — including El Paso, Garfield, and Mesa — commissioners decided it would be easier to join the class action suit.

Moffat County is owed about $27,000 by the federal government, Comstock said, adding that, after fees, the county would receive about $18,000. He noted there is no downside to joining the suit, as the affected counties are almost guaranteed to get that money.

Moffat County Attorney Rebecca Tyree said the lawsuit was originally filed almost seven years ago, so the statute of limitations might prevent Moffat County from claiming other money owed to it.

Tyree said it makes sense to join the class-action lawsuit, as there are no upfront fees to participate.

Included in the resolution to participate in the lawsuit, commissioners named Tyree to act as point person to represent the county and review related documents, she added.

The commission voted to approve of the resolution to participate in the suit and appoint Tyree as its representative.

In other business, county commissioners:

• Approved a bid from Masterworks Mechanical for $74,800 to replace two boilers at the Public Safety Center. The competing bid was from Reliant Heating and Air Conditioning for $109,000. Office of Development Services head Roy Tipton said the boilers have all their original parts from 2000 and have worked beyond their lifespan.

• Approved a bid of $43,000 from APH Construction to replace the metal roofs at the Maybell Emergency Medical Services building and the Maybell Community Center. The other bids were from Jension Custom Builders for $47,400 and Berlet Roofing for $42,000. The bid from Berlet was rejected because the company did not have a bid bond. A bid bond is a debt secured by a bidder for a construction job to ensure the bidder will accept the job if selected.

• Approved the Human Resources Department’s request to publish notices to hire a self sufficiency case manager to help investigate fraud cases.

• Approved the Human Resources Department’s requests to publish notices to hire a facility maintenance technician to manage Loudy-Simpson Park and the county courthouse.

• Approved amendments to the employee handbook to rework overtime pay calculations to incentivize county employees to work holiday hours. The change will benefit the county in the long run, as it will encourage employees to help during possible emergencies during the holidays, Human Resources Department head Lynnette Siedschlaw said.

• Approved a resolution to protect personal identifiable information of county employees. The resolution is to comply with a Colorado law that went into effect Sept. 1. The law requires counties to take steps to protect employee information, such as Social Security numbers, passport ID, medical information, passwords, usernames, and email addresses. Tyree said the state wants counties to have a detailed policy on how they will protect their employees' personal information.

Contact David Tan at 970-875-1795 or dtan@CraigDailyPress.com.