Platte County this week filed
legal action attempting to recover money paid
to two former county commissioners in a salary
increase that was later deemed unconstitutional
by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Separate suits listing former
commissioners Michael Short and Diza Eskridge
as defendants were filed in Platte County Circuit
Court Wednesday morning by special legal counsel
The petition for damages seeks
the return of $19,763.50 paid to both Eskridge
and Short between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2000.
That's the period of time in which both received
a mid-term pay raise. The state Supreme Court
in 2001, in a decision on a case in Laclede County,
ruled such mid-term raises as unconstitutional
and ruled all action taken as invalid.
Dickman declined comment on his
action other than to say: "My policy is that
I don't litigate cases in the press."
Neither Short nor Eskridge could
be reached for comment prior to press time Wednesday
The decision to file the court
cases was made in a recent closed meeting of the
Platte County Commission, during its regular closed
monthly session with county counsel. Minutes from
that meeting indicate that Commissioners Tom Pryor
and Jim Plunkett voted in favor of pursuing the
matter, with Betty Knight abstaining.
Reached Wednesday, Plunkett said
he could not comment on the legal matter.
Dickman's petition maintains that
because the mid-term raises have been declared
invalid, the payments to the defendants were made
in error and that the county has the right to
recover the money.
"In equity and good conscience,
defendant(s) ought to return" the mid-term
pay raises to the county, the petition states.
Dickman states that on Feb. 7,
the county made a demand via certified mail to
both Eskridge and Short seeking return of the
mid-term pay raise. As of Wednesday, neither has
returned the money, according to Dickman's filing.
The suit seeks return of $19,763.50
from each, plus interest at the rate of 9% per
annum from Feb. 7, 2005.
The pay raise stemmed from an
Oct. 30, 1997 meeting of the Platte County Salary
Commission, during which a motion was passed that
effectively increased the salaries of Short and
Eskridge at mid-term.
Earlier, Short hired the Kansas
City law firm of White, Goss and Bowers to render
an opinion on the related statute. A press release
was issued stating in their opinion, the statute
places a three year limit on any cause of action.
Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas,
who has been vocal in her belief the money should
be repaid, in January said the Missouri Attorney
General has issued a legal opinion that says a
five year statute of limitations applies to lawsuits
over compensation to public officials.
Short then responded by saying
Thomas' efforts to make an issue of recovering
the money were politically motivated.
Earlier this year, Platte County
agreed to pay Dickman $125 per hour for his legal
work. Dickman capped his attorney fee at $250
per demand letter sent in any individual matter,
and agreed to cap his total attorney fee at $7,500
in any individual litigated matter through trial.
The county will also be responsible
for all out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Dickman's
firm during the course of litigation.