In order to avoid any public confusion, the actual and final consent decree proposed in conjunction by the plaintiffs and a Council committee as a means to settle the current redistricting lawsuit is presented below, as offered to the Common Council of New Albany.
As you can see, the first page begins with the Council being asked to take responsibility for violating the right of citizens to equal representation as mandated by law.
The second page continues with language noting involvement in the lawsuit, specifying that the parties wish to settle it prior to trial, and expressing the desire to establish new districts to ensure that future elections are fair.
The next three numbered points are the conditions which, if agreed to by Council, would have settled the case and avoided having taxpayers foot the bill for the Council to defend a lawsuit, the facts of which Council President Larry Kochert doesn't even dispute.
Condition number one states that the Council will, sometime after January 1, 2008, establish an Advisory Committee on Redistricting made up of three at-large council members and three people chosen by the Council from a list provided by the plaintiffs. The committee's purpose would be to help explore options for lawful redistricting. Readers will note that the language in the agreement neither requires payment for committee members nor otherwise obligates this or future councils in any way. It's simply a mechanism to begin discussions and keep the process moving in a public manner.
Condition number two states that the Council will pay the plaintiffs' attorney's fees and expenses incurred thus far, as the Council had to be legally prodded to take seriously its public obligation after failing to do so since at least 2002. The proper amount would be determined by the court rather than the plaintiffs or defendants, again to ensure fairness.
Condition three states that, although the lawsuit would be settled, the court would maintain the authority to monitor the process, making certain that both plaintiffs and defendants follow through on the agreement in a legal manner.
The signature section begins after that and continues on the third page.
The gist of it is this: In the interest of reaching settlement and avoiding the unnecessary expenditure of additional public funds, the plaintiffs worked in good faith with a council committee to remove language from prior settlement drafts reported as objectionable to a majority of council members.
We produced a bare bones document that as simply as possible required three essential items:
That the Council be accountable for its wrongdoing; that the Council pay for the expenses incurred in addressing its ongoing refusal to correct that wrongdoing; and that the Council agree to start a legitimate discussion about creating fair voting districts.
Plaintiff Lloyd Wimp made it very clear during the meeting that the above was the final of several settlement offers. But, rather than agreeing with the plaintiffs to honor one of the most basic of civic principles-- a belief in fair and equal representation-- Council Members Donnie Blevins, Dan Coffey, Larry Kochert, Steve Price, and Bill Schmidt chose to defend a lawsuit at taxpayer expense. What they're defending remains to be determined.