New Jersey town spends $14,000 in legal fees to defend single $5 fee it charged resident

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In what can only be classified as a colossal lack of common sense on the part of elected officials and attorneys, the city of Bridgewater, New Jersey paid over $14,000 in legal fees, and more than $17,500 in total to defend a $5 fee it charged a resident for a CD recording of a city council meeting.

Resident Tom Coulter requested the recording of the city council meeting in October 2008. The city charged him $5, despite Coulter’s feeling that the city was obligated to charge only the actual cost of the disc.

Believing he was overcharged, Coulter filed a complaint with the New Jersey Government Record Council. Instead of refunding the $4.04 representing the amount over the disc’s actual cost of 96 cents, the city decided to fight the complaint.

The state council ruled in Coulter’s favor, instructing the city to reimburse Coulter’s legal fees of $3,500 and giving him back the $4.04.

Total cost to Bridgewater: over $17,500. No word yet on whether the city attorney will be running for office next time around.

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