Mesa's legal troubles make national news

By Michelle Dupler, Herald staff writerMay 28, 2009 

Mesa made the national news this week when the Wall Street Journal reported on the town's discussions with Franklin County about whether to dissolve its municipal corporation.

But it may be years before that happens as the city waits for appeals courts to rule on a public records lawsuit, said Mayor Austin Davis.

Davis said the city of 440 people started looking at options when it was hit with a judgment and attorney fees totaling $246,000 in a suit filed by former Mayor Donna Zink and her husband, Jeff Zink.

The Zinks and the city both have appealed to the state Court of Appeals.

"It's entirely likely it could take years," Davis said.

While the discussion was included in a Wall Street Journal article about a number of small towns considering disincorporation because of the economy, Davis said Mesa wouldn't be thinking about dissolving if not for the judgment.

He said its amount -- which is nearly 25 percent of the town's $1 million annual operating budget -- is so high because the case has dragged on for years and penalties have mounted as it works its way through the courts.

And the Cities Insurance Association of Washington -- which insured Mesa when the controversy began in 2002 -- refused to pay the claim, he said.

He said the town is considering disincorporation or bankruptcy but not as a first option.

"It came up simply because you need to have all of your potential avenues argued out," Davis said. "You've got to explore every option."

Franklin County Commissioner Bob Koch said Mesa city officials met with the county in late April mostly as a courtesy to tell the county what they were considering.

"They weren't trying to do anything but not throw a surprise at us some point down the line," Koch said.

If Mesa dissolves its municipal corporation, the county would have to take over its roads, water and sewer services.

But with the possibility years away, Koch said the county hasn't had any formal talks about it.

"It's too far out to even take the time to talk about at this point," he said.

w Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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