EDITORIAL: The Cost of Lawsuits

April 1, 2013

Last week somebody posted the following notice on the Cape Charles Post Office telephone pole:



So far our town of Cape Charles has 

spent $76,386.01 of your money for

attorney’s fees to respond to the lawsuit 

from Old School Cape Charles.

You and every other town resident will

pay for this foolish lawsuit!!!

Ask the Wave . . . why they didn’t 

publish this!

So far, no one has asked the WAVE — but if they did we would refer them to our March 4 analysis, where we wrote: Records show that since July 1 of last year, the Town has spent almost $64,000 on the [Old School lawsuits].

There were legal costs prior to July 1, so the anonymous telephone poll poster probably got it right: total attorney fees of $76,386 and, to be precise, one penny.

If the unknown informant had wanted that fact circulated to the most possible people, he or she could have written a letter to the editor at the WAVE. We would have published it. (Of course, that would have required the writer to have the courage to identify himself.)

But there was even another way: send it for publication in the ANONYMOUS section of the WAVE. We would have published that as well.

Regardless, the unknown writer raises a salient, if unintended, point: why does the Town of Cape Charles, with a population of 1,000, spend so much money on lawyers?

The $76,000 is not the total cost for Old School legal fees. As the WAVE has reported, the Town paid its own attorney $15,000 just to review the contract to convey the Old School to a developer for a price of $10.

That should make the Guinness World Records:  legal costs were 1,500 times the sales price.

Worse, Town Council proceeded to ignore the Town attorney’s advice to require a performance bond and a buyback option in the contract. So if the developers fail to carry out their plan to convert the school and parkland into a 17-unit apartment building, there is no penalty, and nothing the Town can do about it.

Except, perhaps, sue. And at what cost?

The $15,000 legal fee also seems money badly spent considering that the Town attorney failed to raise a red flag over language in the contract stating that Purchaser shall not operate the Project as a low-income housing facility under any state or federal program. That got the Town in hot water with fair housing advocates and, as a result, state legislators. After the building was already sold, the Town revised the contract to drop the offending language.

So, adding the $15,000 fee to review the Old School contract to the $76,000 to answer the lawsuit brings the legal cost to the taxpayer to $91,000. [Read more…]


FRIDAY/SATURDAY 4/5-6: Annual Blessing of the Fleet at Cape Charles Harbor

The Town of Cape Charles 6th Annual Blessing of the Fleet begins Friday, April 5 at 5:30 p.m. [Read more…]