Town of Leland authorizes $500k for potential legal settlement, introduces new fire chief

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LELAND, NC (WWAY) — On Thursday the Town of Leland voted to approve a potential settlement in a lawsuit that’s been going on for nearly two years. However, the town is not admitting guilt.

In September 2018, Plantation Building of Wilmington filed a complaint alleging the town unlawfully charged and collected impact fees and capacity fees between September 2015 and June 2018.

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In March a judge ruled in favor of Plantation.

The town voted Thursday to authorize a payment of $148,644.80 for a potential final judgment, which is part of a larger $500,000 fund the town has approved to fund future lawsuit settlements. That money comes from Public Utility Reserve Fund.

The town plans to appeal the judge’s ruling, releasing the following statement to WWAY:

We deposited the funds in the Clerk’s office to expedite the resolution of this case at the trial level as it relates to Plantation. Here is why:

On February 28 we argued cross motions for summary judgment. We (Leland) contend that the fees we charged Plantation did not run afoul of the holding in the Quality Homes case as they were charged for contemporaneous services. Conversely, Plantation filed a its own motion for summary judgment contending that the fees were unlawfully charged. On March 9, 2020 Judge Bell ruled in favor of Plantation holding that the fees charged to Plantation were not authorized by statute.

Both parties agree as to the amount of fees Plantation paid to Leland so in July we filed a Motion for Entry of Judgment and tendered the amount of fees plus the statutory interest to the Clerk’s office in an effort to conclude the trial level portion of the case and move on to the court of appeals. Neither our filing the Motion for Entry of Judgment nor our depositing of the funds should not be construed as an admission of liability. We fully intend to appeal Judge Bell’s Order. In fact, we included the following language in our Motion for Entry of Judgment:

“Defendant expressly limits its consent to entry of judgment to the sole remaining issue in this litigation—the amount of damages owed by Defendant to Plaintiff. Nothing in this motion should be construed as an admission or waiver by Defendant, in any way, with regard to its authority to charge the fees at issue or to the determination of damages for members of any putative class that Plaintiff may have sought to represent. Defendant expressly reserves its right to contest on appeal this Court’s determination of liability and to raise any defense currently available to it in this or any subsequent litigation.”

Also at Thursday’s council meeting the town introduced its new permanent fire chief… Christopher Langlois.

Former chief John Grimes transitioned to Emergency Management Director last month. At the time, Ronnie Hayes became acting chief.

The town has now hired Langlois as Grimes’ replacement. Langois started his career nearly 33 years ago at age 17 as a volunteer in Southern Louisiana.

He served the last 20 years with the Omaha, Nebraska Fire Department. He says he’s looking forward to this new step.

“What really drew me especially to the town was the culture of the town and the fire department,” Langois said. “The emphasis on core values and servant leadership, serving not only the members of the department, but also the community.”

Chief Langois will be officially sworn in Monday at 10:30 a.m.