Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino accused Modesto leaders Tuesday night of wasting taxpayer dollars to wage a political battle against him, claiming the city has spent thousands to recover a settlement he owes from a 2007 lawsuit.
Sabatino, 72, is running for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
He sued the city in October 2007, claiming Modesto improperly used taxpayer money to mail out voter information materials about a November 2007 ballot measure that set the stage for district elections.
A judge threw out the lawsuit and ordered Sabatino to pay the city $22,887 in attorney's fees in 2008.
Never miss a local story.
Sabatino was ordered to pay more fees after he appealed that decision, then withdrew the appeal. With accrued interest, he owes the city about $30,000, said City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood.
The city has spent roughly $10,000 to $14,000 attempting to collect the unpaid bill, Alcala Wood said. Modesto recently placed a $30,000 lien on a condo property Sabatino owns.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Sabatino said the city tried to have him arrested during the lawsuit.
Alcala Wood strenuously denied that charge. "No arrests were attempted as part of this civil litigation," she said.
Alcala Wood said after the meeting that Sabatino and his attorney, Frank Carson, have forced the city to incur attorney's fees because they haven't cooperated with court orders.
She noted that any legal fees the city pays on the matter will be Sabatino's responsibility to pay.
"Any costs we incur to go after him are recoverable," Alcala Wood said.
The council met in closed session to discuss the lawsuit because Sabatino in January appeared at a council meeting and claimed the city tried to have him arrested.
Council members asked for a report from the city attorney to clarify that charge.
Sabatino's 2007 lawsuit centered on an educational mailer the city sent to voters to explain an advisory measure on district elections.
Sabatino, a supporter of district elections, claimed the city's mailer attempted to sway voters against district elections.
The November 2007 advisory measure passed, as did Measure N, the February 2008 measure that instituted district elections.
Council members didn't discuss their closed-session meeting in public and didn't comment after Sabatino spoke.