Starke Council Approves Payment of Negotiated Attorney Fees for Dotlich Case

The legal case between George and Betty Dotlich and the Board of Zoning Appeals is still causing commotion, as the Starke County Council this week approved a motion to pay a to-be-negotiated amount in attorney fees as ordered by Special Judge Patrick Blankenship. The pair had valiantly fought tooth-and-nail over a commercial structure that had been permitted as a single-family residence, ultimately winning the appeal in the Starke Circuit Court, where it was ruled that the BZA failed to follow proper procedure and made a permitting decision unsupported by substantial evidence.

Don White of the BZA approached the council Monday night and informed them that the planning administrator who performed the inspection of the structure is no longer employed by the county. Unfortunately for the county’s coffers, Blankenship awarded $15,164 in attorney costs to the Dotliches, and White told the council that they will need to decide how to pay for that expense.

White indicated that the BZA will soon have money coming in from permit fees, and said that the board will likely have enough money soon to cover the court-ordered attorney fees. However, until then, the council will need to decide from where to take the funds. Councilman and former circuit court judge Marvin McLaughlin recommended that the county speak with the Dotliches’ attorney and try to work out a lower amount in return for immediate payment.

To that end, the council approved a motion to pay a negotiated amount from the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax fund. There has been no word on when the negotiation will take place.