Judge denies Genoa’s motion to have Livingston Christian pay attorney fees

It’s been a really bad month for the Genoa Township Board members who have been working hard to keep a Christian school out of the township. First, the voters kicked them off the board. Now, they suffered a major loss in court.

Genoa Township taxpayers are still on the hook for more than $80,000 in legal fees in the Livingston Christian Schools case, after a federal judge denied Genoa’s request to have LCS pick up the tab. You can read his order here.

U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh issued his sternly worded ruling on Aug. 23, writing that “LCS’s claims were not ‘frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation’ at the start of the proceedings or at any point throughout.”

The Livingston Christian case has been dragging on for more than a year, since the Genoa Township Board went against its own Planning Commission and voted 4-3 last year to deny LCS’s request to move into a new location at the Brighton Nazarene Church. LCS sued Genoa under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Judge Steeh ruled earlier this summer in favor of Genoa, and Livingston Christian is appealing the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Genoa then asked Judge Steeh to order Livingston Christian to pick up the $81,090 in legal fees that the township has racked up in the case so far. In his ruling this week, Judge Steeh said no. The case is now dragging on in the U.S. Court of Appeals, so that $81,090 figure has certainly grown. And Genoa Township taxpayers are paying every penny.

What’s interesting is that it’s all going to be money thrown out the door, because after the results of the Aug. 2 primary election, Livingston Christian Schools is almost certain to be moving into the Naz once the new board takes office on Nov. 20. In the primary, two of the board members who voted against Livingston Christian – Linda Rowell and Todd Smith – were soundly tossed out of office by the voters, replaced by people who support Livingston Christian. A third opponent of the school – Supervisor Gary McCririe – didn’t run for re-election.

That leaves only one board member – Trustee Jean Ledford – who initially opposed the school. So when the new board takes office, it’s a good bet that one of their first orders of business will be to drop their opposition to the lawsuit and let Livingston Christian move in.

The current board now has a choice: It can continue to fight Livingston Christian and rack up worthless legal bills that will be paid by the taxpayers; or it can settle the case now and let Livingston Christian move in.

There’s a mediation hearing scheduled for this Friday. Genoa’s board members have already lost twice this month. Now they have a chance to do the right thing and get a win. Taxpayers should be urging them to settle this now. They’ve already lost their jobs and wasted a lot of taxpayer money. They don’t need to waste more.

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