Attorney James Devine Jr. withdrew portions of the petition filed by Citizens for Responsible Government in August. The two-pronged lawsuit claims the meal and mileage reimbursement policy should be discontinued and alleges that during some of those meals, county business was discussed, violating the state's Open Meetings Law.
According to CRG spokesman David Harrington, state municipal law requires him to provide evidence that, by using taxpayer money to pay for their meals and mileage, the county has disenfranchised Harrington to a greater degree than other taxpayers. An impossible feat, he says, because all county residents are affected.
At the Article 78 hearing Dec. 1, Madison County Supreme Court Judge Dennis McDermott asked Devine for specific dates, places and topics of conversation that the CRG felt violated the state's Open Meetings Law.
"I'm used to exchanging pleadings," Devine said. "I expected we would be answering some of these questions in answers, responses, bills of particulars and interrogatories. Our failure to provide specific evidence I don't think is fatal to our petition and complaint. If you want the specifics in there, we can amend to include that. We have the evidence."
Attorney David Linger of Hancock & Estabrook, attorneys hired by Madison County to defend the claim, said since there was no evidence, the case should be dismissed.
"I have the evidence and can submit an amendment," Devine said.
McDermott gave Devine and his clients until Jan. 12 to provide the court with particulars of their claims that members of the Madison County Board of Supervisors are in violation of the state's Open Meetings Law.
"This will give you time to revise your second amended petition," McDermott said.
McDermott asked Devine to get the more detailed documents to Linger three weeks before the Jan. 12 return date.
The CRG is not seeking monetary relief. Harrington said his group simply wants the reimbursements discontinued. At a Government Operations Committee meeting last week, Supervisor James Goldstein (Lebanon) proposed a resolution that the supervisors revise the policy to eliminate mileage and meal reimbursement.
"If that initiative gets support and the policy changes, there's a good chance we'll withdraw our petition," Harrington said. "We just want the practice to stop."