Homer Tribune staff
The Alaska Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday that the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers must pay for their own attorney fees after suing the Kenai Peninsula Borough on the matter of term limits.
Believing the borough assembly was ignoring voter wishes, ACT decided to file initiative petitions for term limits on assembly and school board members in 2007. Both initiatives passed and were challenged in court, where assembly term limits prevailed and the limit on school board members was denied.
This means ACT won one matter and lost on the other, and for five years fought to recover attorney costs.
The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that there was no clearly prevailing party, and therefore, there would be no compensation for attorney fees.
ACT’s Mike McBride said he is disappointed.
“I have talked to our attorney about this, and he is reviewing the material now. I’ll be talking to him and we’ll have a better understanding of exactly what was said,” McBride said.
ACT is a volunteer organization. The only source of revenue is occasional fundraisers and donations. Each lawsuit is paid for by donations from individuals who step forward to pledge help. This case was handled by Ken Jacobus, an experienced municipal attorney.
ACT has challenged the borough when caps on spending enacted by voters aren’t followed by the assembly, and in matters relating to sales tax. In the case of the term limit lawsuit, the court agreed with ACT that the voter-approved initiative on assembly term limits should be upheld.
“Term limits are working and they are working quite well,” McBride said. Borough assembly members are limited to two, three-year terms, then must step aside and cannot run for election. This year, Gary Knopp will be termed out.
Two other ACT lawsuits, both filed in 2006, are still making their way through the courts.
“We try and it’s frustrating when the little guy goes up against the big government machine, and of course they fight us with our money. We pay twice,” McBride said. “If the sales tax and capital projects suits go against us, there will be another opportunity for the borough to ask for attorney fees from us.”
One lawsuit is asking the borough to honor a 2 percent cap on sales tax.
The other is putting a cap of $1.5 million for capital projects.