Court documents have shed light on the thousands of dollars several lawsuits between Dutchess County’s top election officials have cost taxpayers in legal fees. Three attorneys’ invoices could total $14,688 for expenses incurred while they filed and defended Dutchess County Democratic Election Commissioner Fran Knapp in lawsuits alleging violations of the state election law that requires the Democratic and Republican commissioners to act together on election-related matters. Taxpayers may be on the hook for thousands of dollars more. An appeal is being filed to overturn a May decision to dismiss a contempt-of-court charge against Republican Commissioner Erik Haight. Meanwhile, Haight’s attorney fees are pending court approval. Payments come out of the county Board of Elections’ budget, Knapp previously told the Journal. Knapp wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Knapp’s attorney, Kathleen O’Keefe of Albany, is seeking payment of $4,891 for 23.8 hours of legal services and expenses she said she is entitled to in a motion filed last week to argue her fee application again. A state Supreme Court justice in Westchester County denied her application on June 5. Her rate is $200 an hour, her payment application shows.
Knapp hired O’Keefe on Jan. 6, 2012, because, she said, Haight was violating state election law in regards to absentee voting applications. O’Keefe replaced Poughkeepsie attorney Gilbert West Sr., who filed the lawsuit against Haight on Sept. 30, 2011. His invoice was $4,875, according to O’Keefe’s motion.