Sewage lawsuits connect three NC09 primary candidates to $1 million in attorney fees

A legal dispute over sewage connects three Republican primary candidates for the 9th Congressional District to nearly $1 million in attorney fees at the expense of taxpayers.

"I think politics is full of sewage," Union County resident Whit Herrin said. "They don't need to be making money on it."

Candidates Dan Bishop, Stony Rushing and Fern Shubert each have ties to these sewage lawsuits.

Union County sued the Town of Marshville, beginning in 2016, claiming the town "ceased paying its bills in May 2014," according to the lawsuit.

Union County operates a regional wastewater transmission system and has charged Marshville for its use of it since 1994, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed Marshville owed nearly $500,000 at the time the lawsuit was filed. Rushing is a Union County Commissioner and Shubert was Marshville's Town Manager at the time of the lawsuit.

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Marshville countered the lawsuit. Shubert said the Town took issue with Union County not adjusting its sewer rates properly.

Connected to the two candidates, Bishop has been acting as the primary attorney for Union County. He's been paid almost $375,000 in attorney fees pertaining to this case, FOX 46 uncovered during a Freedom of Information Act request.

Union County spent more than $36,000 in legal fees to their county attorney, and Marshville spent more than $563,000. The two sides totaled $973,800, and have agreed to settle their dispute.

"We are working through the settlement components-- the overarching component is we will be acquiring the Marshville water/sewer system," Union County Communications Officer Brett Vines said. "We anticipate the acquisition taking 12-18 months. Staff from the County and the Town of Marshville are working cooperatively to achieve a positive result."

Rushing said he worked with Marshville to prevent even further tax dollars from being spent.

"By working together the Board of Commissioners and the Marshville Town Council did what was right to help our residents," Rushing said.

Shubert, who is no longer with Marshville, believes the County used its deep pockets to bully the small town into a settlement.

"I think we have way too many attorneys in government and the public doesn't have a clue of what's going on behind the scenes," Shubert said.

Marshville Mayor Frank Deese is not satisfied with how the settlement played out.

"I wish there had been more details in the settlement before voting on it, but my Council voted to accept it, and I support my Council," Deese said. "We asked for mediation more than once including early in the process so we could reach a settlement but (upon advice of their attorney) the County refused. That advice, along with countless unnecessary motions filed by the County's attorney, resulted in a delay of two (possibly three) years of the eventual settlement, at a cost of thousands of excess dollars to Union County citizens. I won't say what candidate for the 9th District received the bulk of that money," Desse added."

FOX 46 reached out to Dan Bishop's office on April 18 and May 10 but has not received a response.

Additiional settlement details have not been provided to FOX 46 from either Union County or Marshville.