Annapolis mulling whether to sue Arundel

November 16, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis officials are exploring whether to file a lawsuit alleging that Anne Arundel County illegally withheld $11.5 million in cigarette tax revenues from the city for 27 years.

Lawyers for the city and county met yesterday to discuss the prospective lawsuit and the city's claim that the county may have failed since 1967 to pass on cigarette tax revenues to the city.

Although the City Council voted 6-0 Monday night authorizing the filing of a suit, city and county lawyers might work out a compromise in the weeks ahead, said City Attorney Paul Goetzke. "The city will meet with the county before deciding to file the suit," he said. "We should be in the position to make that decision within the next 30 days."

The city has hired the Baltimore-based law firm Shapiro & Olander to argue the case if the city and county are unable to settle out of court.

The lawsuit would be identical to one filed this month by Annapolis activist Sylvanus B. Jones. That suit alleges that the Anne Arundel County Council abused its power in the mid-1960s when it repealed state laws requiring the county to turn over a portion of its tobacco tax receipts to the city.

County Attorney Judson P. Garrett said the dispute stems from the question of whether the county had the authority to repeal state laws when it adopted the county charter in 1965. The county was granted that power in a 1961 state law that changed the way the cigarette tax revenues were distributed, he said.

The county will file a response to Mr. Jones' lawsuit by Dec. 2, Mr. Garrett said. If the city goes ahead with its own lawsuit, it probably will file before then, he said.

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