Appellate court rules in favor of the town of Mexico on half of appeal

The state Supreme Court appellate court has ruled in favor of the town of Mexico on half of the town’s appeal of a decision against Oswego County for nonpayment of a road plowing bill.

The other half of the lawsuit was dismissed.

State Supreme Court Justice James McCarthy ruled in March that the snow and ice removal contract between the county and the town of Mexico was “clear and unambiguous” and dismissed the town’s lawsuit against the county. The town decided in June to appeal this decision.

There were two parts of the lawsuit:

n Breach of contract. The county states the town had to submit bills for plowing in a timely manner within 30 days. The town said it cannot be held to this because the county had “waived the 30-day billing deadline clause by previously accepting late invoices.”

n Unjust enrichment. This part of the lawsuit contends that the county injured the town by withholding its payments for the bills submitted late.

The town of Mexico sued the county in January due to the county not paying a bill the town submitted for plowing county roads in the town. Each town in the county has a contract with the county for plowing and maintaining county roads in the town during the winter months.

The amount of the unpaid bill Mexico submitted to the county was $26,000.

The county contends Mexico did not send in all of its plowing bills in a timely manner. County officials said previously that Mexico had three bills — one from December 2016 and two from January 2017 — that didn’t come into the county until February.

County Highway Superintendent Kurt Ospelt said those came in and were stamped Feb. 9.

The county already had closed its financial books for 2016 a week earlier.

The appellate court judges ruled the county’s policy about submitting bills in a timely manner had not been enforced numerous times in the past and therefore, the town of Mexico should not be penalized for missing the deadline on the one December bill.

“They (the county) allowed for late submission of bills for a decade,” said Mexico Supervisor David Anderson. “This (part of the lawsuit ruling) is obviously very, very important to us.”

The county contends this 30-day time period for towns submitting bills is clearly stated in the contract. But the judges said in the appellate ruling: “Although the contract unambiguously provided a 30-day billing deadline, the complaint alleged that the County had previously accepted invoices submitted past the 30-day deadline and thus that defendants (county) had waived the 30-day provision.”

In addition: “Contrary to defendants’ (county) contention, the fact that the 30-day billing deadline clause is unambiguous does not change this result,” the judges rules.

County Attorney Richard Mitchell was not available for comment.

Mexico officials said previously that the county had an agreement with them and officials from Minetto that they could submit some bills later than normal. County officials disagreed with this contention.

Anderson said the town plows and maintains 12 ½ miles of county roads in Mexico. The county terminated its plowing contract with the town of Mexico last February.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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