Aurora councilman ordered to pay own legal fees

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

AURORA _ City Councilman Ron Horn, being sued by a local developer for a campaign advertisement, will have to pay his own legal expenses.

Horn is being sued for libel by Curtis-Layer Contractors for an Oct. 29 open letter published in an Aurora weekly newspaper in which Horn, then running unopposed for re-election, attacked Council members Peggy Duncan and Lynn McGill for their approval of Curtis-Layer projects that Horn claims violated the city code.

Horn was co-campaign manager with Councilman Richard DeLuca for Dale Kelly's run for mayor against Duncan and a third candidate.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, council heard that the city's two insurers had refused to cover the legal expenses, saying the matter was a private one between Horn and Curtis-Layer. Council then voted to approve legislation offered by DeLuca and Kelly to pay Horn's legal bills. The vote was 7-1, with McGill voting against and Horn abstaining. But Duncan, who was elected mayor in November, vetoed the action four days later.

Council members deadlocked 4-4 Monday to overturn the mayoral veto. Six votes are needed to do so.

Duncan and Horn could not be reached for comment on the vote or issue this morning.

McGill said today he considered the matter a private one between Horn and the company.

"The city has never covered such expenses before," he said, adding he was concerned the costs could grow beyond just attorney fees.

"If the defendant lost the case we would be responsible for the costs," McGill said. "The ad was mostly about Mrs. Duncan and myself."

"It intimated in the ad that (Curtis-Layer) had broken city ordinances, which is not true," he said. "I thought it was simply political, and those things happen."

McGill complimented Horn's actions regarding the issue.

"Mr. Horn was very gracious in accepting the fact that we were not going to cover the expenses. I'm hoping (Curtis-Layer) will drop the suit," McGill said.

Curtis-Layer filed suit Jan. 23 in Portage County Common Pleas Court, seeking $25,000 on each of four counts, and court costs. The firm has requested a jury trial, but no date has been set by Judge Joseph Kainrad.

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