"We All Were Jackasses."
It's five if you believe, as county officials do, that the conflict began when the township sued the county in 2006 over steeply rising prices for its contract with the county sheriff. But township leaders believe it started when the county adopted a methodology in 2003 that could have led to even higher prices.
Whatever you believe, the township lost the first battle in circuit court when the judge found for the county, and lost the second round when an appeals court upheld that decision. In a mediated settlement this summer, it agreed to pay the county $732,927. Augusta Township, the suit's other plaintiff, agreed to pay $16,500.
"Note that the plaintiffs had to pay the defendant, which is very unusual," says Ann Arbor commissioner Leah Gunn. "And another very important point: if they'd walked away at circuit court, they would not have owed one penny." Though the settlement is less than half the judgment the county sought, Gunn says they took it "because we were sick and tired of this stupid lawsuit, and that was the deal on the table."
"I was personally extraordinarily frustrated by the whole thing," says Ann Arbor commissioner and board chair Conan Smith. "I thought giving them a discount on the price was letting them be winners, but that wasn't rational. Once we went to mediation, we started really talking about our interests and we realized what we both wanted was for it to go away."