First hearing set in ongoing Lawrence government court case


The first hearing in the ongoing court case between the City of Lawrence mayor and Common Council has been scheduled for Aug. 21 via web conference. In the meantime, motions continue to be filed for the five-judge panel to consider.

In the most recent motion filed on behalf of the Lawrence Common Council, Lawrence Fire Chief Dino Batalis was added as a co-defendant in the council’s counterclaim against Mayor Steve Collier’s administration.

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The motion is an update to the initial response and counterclaim from the council. The update was approved by presiding Judge Kurt Eisgruber on July 13.

The updated information focuses on the newly built Fire Station 38. The council approved bonds up to $10.5 million for the project in 2021 and discussed what kind of bay doors the station should have.

“Of particular concern to the council was a previous incident where the loss of electrical power at a fire station resulted in emergency vehicles being unable to respond to an emergency,” the updated motion states. “Therefore, the council researched and publicly discussed in its finance committee and council meetings the financial and practical impact of including fire station bay doors in the project that could be manually folded open during a loss of power or other mechanical failure of the doors’ lift system. On June 16, 2021, the council adopted Amended Resolution 7, 2021, which specifically stated that ‘The maximum principal amount of the bonds was $10,500,000, to include construction costs of five (5) four-fold apparatus bay doors for the front bay exits.”

In late May, the city posted photos of the almost-complete fire station, which did not have the four-fold doors. The council asked for an explanation.

“On June 15, 2023, the fire chief emailed the council and provided an explanation that the folding bay doors were not included in the project due to concerns about cost,” the updated motion states. “Neither the mayor, the mayor’s staff, nor the fire chief ever publicly raised concerns with the council regarding project costs, delays or the four-fold apparatus bay doors prior to June 15, 2023.”

According to the updated counterclaim, the total project cost came in at $10.16 million, about $340,000 under the project bond budget limit.

Brian Bosma is a municipal attorney representing Collier’s administration in the court case. In a phone interview July 17, he said they reviewed the bond document and talked to the bond lawyer, who had no knowledge of a construction detail – such as what kind of doors to install – included by a legislative body.

“The job of the council, the legislative body, in the course of a bond issue, is to approve general specifications and funding, not to control or micromanage details of that construction,” Bosma said.

He said the four-fold doors the council wanted would have cost three times more than the overhead doors that were eventually installed. The folding doors also would have required an under-concrete thawing system. Bosma said if that system needed repairs, about eight inches of concrete would have to be excavated to perform that maintenance. He said that the mayor’s focus has been to protect taxpayers from unnecessary expenses, which is why the committee chose doors that would have less-expensive life-cycle costs.

Bosma added that what kind of fire station doors were installed is not applicable to the original issue before the court, which is about statutory authority to appropriate funds.

The Aug. 21 hearing will address outstanding issues and in-person hearing dates, according to court documents. The five-judge panel that will consider the case comprises Judges John Hanley, Cynthia Ayers, Timothy Oakes, Heather Welch and Eisgruber.


Collier’s administration filed a petition March 23 in Marion County Superior Court over the council’s decision to appropriate $250,000 to investigate who was at fault when the city’s 2022 budget was not submitted to the state by deadline in late fall of 2021 and reverted to the previous year’s budget. The council started the investigation in late 2022-early 2023 after learning that the city had been operating for all of 2022 under the 2021 spending plan.

Collier’s petition asks the court to declare the appropriation null and void, based on state statutes that say an appropriation cannot be made without the mayor’s recommendation. Collier’s petition also asks the court to rule that the council was at fault for the 2022 budget issue, because it allegedly failed to provide details needed for that budget to be submitted on time.

In its late-May response to the petition, the council alleges that through the petition and other actions, Collier’s administration is attempting to avoid investigation. The council’s lengthy response denied specific allegations in the mayor’s March 23 petition and included counterclaims against the mayor’s office.

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