(La Porte, IN) - An out-of-court settlement has been reached in a lawsuit between the La Porte County Auditor and the La Porte County Commissioners. The lawsuit was originally filed in October by the commissioners after Auditor Tim Stabosz ignored their executive orders to pay the county attorney, Friedman & Associates. The La Porte County Commissioners unanimously approved the settlement agreement on Wednesday night, which was finalized about 90 minutes prior to the scheduled Commissioners meeting.
Under the settlement, Stabosz will release payments of $26,169 to Friedman & Associates. However, Stabosz will not be required to release the remaining $2,500 that has been withheld from Friedman's September, October and November invoices. Stabosz claims this portion has been withheld because County Attorney Shaw Friedman and his law firm have not provided the information Stabosz has requested to verify or reject the disputed billings. Friedman cites attorney client privilege for withholding the requested information as the work was performed for his client, the La Porte County Commissioners. Stabosz argued he has ultimate authority over claims until they’re been fully audited. Meanwhile, the majority of the commissioners reported seeing no problems with the billings after reviewing the disputed claims.
In addition, the settlement mandates whoever is named county attorney for 2022 will be required to work under a written contract that specifies the duties to be performed. The county attorney is appointed by the commissioners annually and has historically worked solely at their direction and without a contract. For months, Stabosz and Commissioner Joe Haney have publicly demanded a contract for Shaw Friedman and his firm, whom they allege has billed the county for political and other non-legal work.
Haney said payments to Friedman & Associates will be released once the commissioners grant approval at their meeting on January 5, or sooner if clearance to expedite the procedure is given by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
“We’re all in the mood to get this thing settled and done with,” said La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski.
The settlement also stipulates the agreement will not be given weight in deciding a civil lawsuit filed by Friedman against Stabosz in February. Friedman is claiming defamation of character against Stabosz for alleging Friedman runs county government by having undue influence over elected officials.