Attorneys deserve credit
The dust hasn’t quite settled yet, and there are still some questions left to be answered, but it looks as if Carroll County property owners are off the hook for an $18 annual fee connected to a defunct landfill in Baxter County.
The case is extremely complicated in one sense, I can say after having read most of the case file. But in a larger sense, it’s a pretty straightforward example of a shady scheme concocted by expensive lawyers on behalf of wealthy people seeking to take advantage of not-so-wealthy people.
Who those wealthy people are remains a bit of a mystery, although I could make a confident guess about some of their identities. The not-so-wealthy people are much easier to identify — they would be the landowners in Carroll, Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties who would have been stuck forking over $18 a year for 20 years or more to pay for other folks’ poor investments.
When the $18 fee first became public knowledge, there was a lot of outrage locally. Angry citizens showed up at public meetings, shook their fists and lambasted some local officials who might or might not have borne any blame for the situation.
I can empathize with citizens’ frustrations. But the fact is that this was never going to be settled with angry outbursts. It was always going to be settled by the calm, measured application of the rule of law.
The credit for putting a stop to this fee goes to attorneys Matt Bishop and Wendy Howerton of Fayetteville. They filed class-actions lawsuits in each county and argued successfully that the $18 fee amounted to an illegal action. Right now, they are working out a method to hopefully refund some of the money that’s already been collected, although no ruling has been made about that money — which totals more than $2 million.
Of course, Bishop and Howerton are likely to be awarded a substantial amount in attorneys’ fees for their efforts. I doubt too many taxpayers in the six counties will begrudge them that. It would seem to me they’ve earned every penny.