Anti-property tax group appealing sanctions

May 9, 2013

The attorney representing the group that tried – by initiated measure – to end property taxes in North Dakota says a judge’s ruling that imposed sanctions on the group should be thrown out.

“Empower the Taxpayer” had gone to court – alleging that certain state and local elected officials were spreading lies about the effects of the measure – and were using public money to campaign against it. The group said that was a violation of the state’s corrupt practices act. District Judge Bruce Romanek threw out the suit. And he ordered “Empower the Taxpayer” to pay legal fees – and to buy ads in North Dakota newspapers to apologize to the elected officials.

The group’s attorney – Lynn Boughey of Bismarck – told the state Supreme Court Romanek ruled the group did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. But Boughey says no prosecutors were willing to pursue it.

"If the prosecutors refused to enforce the law, what are the plaintiffs to do?" Boughey asked the Court. "They have no other option but to attempt to enforce it."

Attorney Randall Bakke of Bismarck represents some of the elected officials. He told the Court Judge Romanek found the lawsuit frivolous and without merit.

"This was a lawsuit started without any factual or legal basis," said Bakke. "There were no allegations in the complaint that these individuals violated the Corrupt Practices Act. This was just an attempt to muzzle the opposition."

The Court has taken the case under advisement.