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Oh Oh delivers suit against Coupeville
"Since last January, a political watchdog group in Coupeville has been threatening to sue the town over its practice of transferring money out of Coupeville's utility funds to pay for expenses in Coupeville's general fund. Yesterday, the group known as Oh Oh made good on its threats. In a complaint filed Tuesday afternoon at Island County Courthouse by Coupeville lawyer Ken Pickard, Oh Oh is asking that the court force the town to return excesses money it alleges was unlawfully transferred.Since Oh Oh raised the spectre of a lawsuit at a Jan. 25 town council meeting, council members, Pickard and members of Oh Oh have wrangled over the practice of transferring money out of the utility fund to pay for estimated, or 'budgeted' costs, in the general fund. These costs invariably turned out to be higher than the actual funds needed.Utility funds pay for water and sewers and some storm water control.General funds pay for Coupeville's administrative services, like court and town council expenses, administrative salaries and legal and planning services.I'm not trying to hold the town up for money, Pickard said at a March council meeting. This is more of a bookkeeping matter. I just don't feel that 870 rate payers should subsidize the town's expenses that are unrelated to providing water and sewer services. Though both sides have negotiated, often heatedly and publicly, they have failed to arrive at a mutually agreeable amount.Subsequently, the council has approved transferring more than $10,000 back into its utility fund.But it has been too little and too late to forestall the legal action.In the lawsuit, Oh Oh is requesting more than $73,000 - $46,722 to be restored to the water works utility bond fund, and $27,060 to be transferred back into the utility fund from the general fund. With interest.The lawsuit alleges there were two types of unlawful transfers: Excessive annual transfers of funds from the utility fund to the general fund in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999; and transfers to the general fund from special bond monies levied for municipal capital purposes relating to the Town's water system and sanitary sewage disposal system. Pickard and members of Oh Oh declined to comment on the suit Tuesday, as did various members of the Coupeville's town council and Mayor Nancy Conard, pending examination of the document."