Overcharging two residents $9,511 for sewer and water has cost the city of Stanfield more than $80,000 in legal fees after a multi-year battle — and put the city in the market for a new attorney.

The payment of $83,469 to Arturo and Maria Carrillo was approved by the City Council Tuesday night, followed by a unanimously approved motion by Jack Huxoll that the city look into changing attorneys.

Thomas J. Creasing of Kuhn Law Offices has been representing the city. Huxoll said he was unhappy with the way Creasing handled the case.

Creasing declined to comment citing bar standards about discussing clients.

According to court documents, the lawsuit began when the Carillos claimed the city had consistently overcharged them for water and sewer services for approximately six years. The court found the city at fault and the city paid more than $9,000 in restitution for the extra charges.

But the plaintiffs appealed a decision not to require the city to reimburse their legal fees, and the city appealed a subsequent decision to require payment.

The $83,469 the city paid this week reimburses the Carillos for their legal expenses based on a judgment by the state court of appeals.

City Manager Blair Larsen told the East Oregonian that he hadn’t started as city manager yet when the city started the appeals process, but in hindsight it followed “bad legal advice.”

“It’s very disappointing,”?he said. “The whole thing should have been settled a long time ago.”

On Tuesday the council approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of $4,000 from the contingency fund and $4,000 from the capital outlay fund to cover what the city had not already saved and budgeted in the event it lost its case.

“We’re not devastated because we were prepared, but it’s certainly money we could have used elsewhere,” Larsen said.

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