Hauser under the gun to pay attorney fees

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COEUR d’ALENE — The city of Hauser must reimburse its local gun club for attorney fees the club accrued fighting the city in a lawsuit over a code violation.

City officials did not return calls Wednesday, and one council member refused to comment on a recent Idaho Supreme Court ruling that awards the Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club attorney fees going back to 2012 when the city accused the club of violating a code on property over which the city had no jurisdiction.

In its opinion published this month, the state’s high court reversed an opinion from the district court that denied awarding attorney fees to the gun club.

“The city of Hauser attempted to enforce its code on the club, an entity located outside the city,” according to the opinion. “After extensive administrative and legal proceedings, the club prevailed against the city and requested attorney fees (but) … the district court denied the club’s request for fees.”

The high court ruling awards fees to the club from 2012 to this year.

Although a figure has not yet been tallied, club members agree there is a lot of money involved.

“It’s a substantial amount of money,” club member Jerry Paulus said. “It’s been over a five-year process. It’s been a tough situation.”

In 2012 alone, the nonprofit Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club spent more than $20,000 in attorneys fees as it fought the city’s notice of violation filed over the facility’s increased use. The violation stemmed from noise produced from target blasting, and was fueled by the complaints from neighbors.

But the club, which has operated at the same place since 1949, has pretty much followed the same model for more than a half-century members said, with membership hovering around 160 people comprising mostly families and retirees shooting clays a few days a week.

“We’ve never deviated from our operation,” Paulus said.

Since the code violation was filed, club members said the sheriff’s department has been called by opponents to address grievances that don’t exist, and members have been harassed and picketed more than a couple of times.

Meanwhile, the club appealed rulings that sided against it, until the appeals were settled in Boise.

It has the documents to prove it.

“There are four or five boxes full of all these proceedings,” Paulus said.

The city, with a population of about 700 and edging the western border of Kootenai County just down Highway 53 from Rathdrum, will have to dig deep to pay the club, if not this year, then next year, said attorney Susan Weeks, who is the latest of two attorneys to represent the club.

She said state law establishes how the city must pay its financial obligation.

“It addresses how the city must pay the judgment from this year’s property taxes,” Weeks said. “If they can’t pay it with this year’s taxes, they must pay it with next year’s property taxes.”

Weeks will spend the next few weeks compiling receipts before reaching a sum total of the damages to the city.

“It’s a significant amount,” Weeks said, as measured by the city’s available resources.

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