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Jefferson Co. Resident Files Lawsuit

BRADENTON, Fla. — A Jefferson County, Ala., resident yesterday filed a 14-count lawsuit against hundreds of people and firms connected with the county's troubled $3.2 billion sewer debt program.

The 44-page civil lawsuit does not specifically name Jefferson County, but it lists as defendants current and former county officials, investment banks, underwriters, bond insurers, persons who have been convicted of corruption in rebuilding the sewer system, and 582 "fictitious" defendants.

The 14 counts in the suit include negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and conspiracy to defraud, among others.

The suit seeks class-action status for those who paid sewer system bills and "monetary damages sustained by plaintiffs as a result of the herein described wrongful conduct and actions between 1993 and 2008."

"The genesis of this civil action can be traced to the series of events over the last 11 to 15 years where the Jefferson County commissioners, various investment bankers, insurers, and advisers have continuously failed to act in the best interests of the citizens of Jefferson County," the lawsuit said.

"Through a long series of ill-conceived financial transactions, the sewer ratepayers of Jefferson County have been saddled with a debt of roughly $11,491 per residential sewer customer, which is the highest in the nation," the suit continued. "Also, the sewer ratepayers have seen exponential growth, an increase of 329%, in their sewer rates in the last 11 years."

The lawsuit seeks disgorgement of fees, kickbacks, and premiums received by defendants, the award of injunctive relief to prevent future excessive fees from being paid, as well as interest at the highest legal rates available related to excessive fees and kickbacks and attorney fees.

It also asks that the court "set aside the transactions that are made the basis of this case, as all were entered into in contravention of Alabama law," referring to the bond deals and swap transactions that Jefferson County entered into.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jefferson County resident Charles E. Wilson by Kathryn Harrington, a partner at Hollis, Wright and Harrington PC in Birmingham. Harrington could not be reached yesterday. She is listed on the firm's Web site as the head of the mass tort and class action department.

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