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County board chair to enter into retainer agreement

July 5, 2019
Bryce Berginski - Tribune Reporter , Pierce County Tribune

During a regular meeting Tuesday morning, county commissioners approved a motion allowing the Commission Chairman to sign onto a retainer agreement with a law firm pursuing multi-district opioid litigation.

During their April meeting, commissioners met with Curtis Olafson, a former state Senator, and Matt Daniel, a Dallas, Texas-based attorney, to discuss litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. At the time, the board took no action on the matter.

In June 2015, Olafson emailed commissioners, County Auditor-Treasurer Karin Fursather and State's Attorney Galen Mack to provide an "urgent" update on the opportunity to join the litigation. Olafson said he would "strongly encourage" the commission to take up joining as soon as possible.

Three days later, Olafson asked if the update had been discussed and if the issue were to be included on a future commission meeting agenda.

On Monday, Mack responded to Olafson's email with four questions:

- "Have there been any variations in the retainer agreements signed by the various counties?"

- "In the event a court requires any damage awards to be used directly for treatment issues, do you believe that will obligate the county to engage in the business of drug treatment? If not, then how may one reasonably expect the award to be distributed to, or for the benefit of, the individual counties?"

- "Have you found the process or time needed to attempt to determine damages at the individual county level to be lengthy or burdensome?"

- "What county officials are most needed to assist in pursuing a claim, and what is the most time you have seen invested by county officials in gathering information or assisting in the process?"

On Tuesday morning Jonathan Novak, an attorney with the Fears Nachawati Law Firm, responded to Mack's questions.

On the first question, Novak said the firms are "happy to discuss and implement" changes to retainer agreements.

In response to the second question, Novak said "We do not believe the damage awards will be so specifically earmarked for treatment issues." Novak also said, however, that the issues "are still bing considered and debated by the various plaintiffs" involved.

In response to question three, Novak said the county would need to assist in completing a brief plaintiff fact sheet, and that damages would be calculated and applied "via a complex algorithm."

In response to question four, Novak said the fact sheet process would take "minimal time and effort"; that in the process someone at the county who could identify specific individual officials would be needed to be contacted; and that at most one county employee would be needed to assist in completing the forms.

District 2 Commissioner Mike Christenson questioned if it would be "worth it" for the county to join in on the litigation. Mack said he would "not be upset" if the county chose not to.

In other actions, the Board of County Commissioners:

- Held an annual meeting with members of the County Park Board. During the meeting commissioners approved a request to pay $851.43 to the N.D. Game & Fish Department for a new dock.

- Met with Daniel Schwartz, of Nexus Planning & Consulting, to discuss progress on the updates to the county's Comprehensive Plan.

- Met with Jessica Tagestad, of Wold Engineering. The board approved advertising for bids on Orrin road repairs.

- Approved a transfer of $12,601.26 from 2014 FEMA Disaster funds to Juniata Township.

- Approved appointments to the Social Service and County Weed boards.

- Approved the pledge of assets.

- Approved Heart of America Correctional & Treatment Center bills and financials, and purchases of a new ITV system and office chairs. HACTC Administrator informed the board of an over $20,000 profit in May, and the inmate population was at 105 prior to the board meeting (82 of which were U.S. Marshal Service inmates).

- Approved June meeting minutes, bills, financial statements and treasurers checks.

 
 

 

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