The Ely City Council instructed City Attorney Chuck Odgers to begin an investigation to find specialized ‘non-profit’ attorneys to bring before the council at a later date to help guide them on what is and isn’t possible in trying to settle a lawsuit levied against them.
The action came during a special meeting held on May 1 inside the armory after the council and Railroad Board of Trustees discussed their growing concerns that the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation is accruing more debt than the city is comfortable shouldering.
During the discussion, Odgers revealed to the public that in the city’s litigation sessions with the foundation’s management board over their lawsuit against the city, that the idea of the city relinquishing all control and ownership of the railroad to the management board was a recurring request.
“It seems like it always comes back to that issue in every meeting we have,” Odgers said during the meeting.
City Councilman Bruce Setterstrom was the only council member to vote “nay” on the action to seek out specialized attorneys to help counsel the board on whether they could give away their part-ownership and liability of the railroad without damaging the foundations non-profit status.
Odgers explained that since he was non-trained in the “complicated” nature of non-profit laws that it would be “malpractice” for him to offer any legal counsel on the matter.
The move comes in stark contrast with the council’s dealings with the management board over the past 18 months after Setterstrom originally wanted to investigate and correct “red flags” brought up in the city’s annual audit of the foundation.
The management board responded to the council’s increasing interest in the foundation with a lawsuit after they felt the trustees overstepped their bounds by entering the railroad’s offices through a window.