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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Read it here first: Mageau wants $20,000

A couple days ago, we heard a rumor that former Town Council member Jim Mageau had just sued the town for $20,000.

Actually, what Mageau really did was present the Town with a bill for $20,000 to reimburse him for his cost to defend himself from criminal assault charges rising from his famous altercation with CCA leader Cliff Vanover. Mageau’s claim was filed by one of his lawyers, Lynette Labinger. The claim is not itemized.

RI state law requires municipalities to indemnify town officials for costs that arise from their performance of their official duties. This legal requirement is not only the law, but it’s also fair and practical for municipalities to stand behind people acting on behalf of the town.

It will be interesting to see whether Charlestown accepts Mageau’s claim that his altercation with Vanover in the corridor of Town Hall after a town council meeting was adjourned was part of Mageau's official duties..

While state law requires indemnification, the law also provides for a municipality to refuse to cover a town official:

The municipality or any fire district may decline to indemnify any elected or appointed fire district official, employee, official, or member for any misstatement, error, act, omission, or neglect if it resulted from willful, wanton, or malicious conduct on the part of the police officers, firefighters, elected or appointed fire district official, employee, official, or member.

When Mageau settled the case in 2009, he said he expected the town to indemnify him, so this bill, while a long time coming, is not a huge surprise.