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Tarpon Springs sewer dispute still dragging on

"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," Tim Keffalas told the City Commission almost two months ago, when he announced he was going to drop a lawsuit he and others had filed against the city over a sewer system dispute.

His warning was right on target; his co-plaintiffs never agreed to drop the lawsuit, and attorneys are still trying to work out a settlement.

John Shahan, attorney for the group of residents who filed the complaint about the city's sewer system, said he was surprised to hear Keffalas' announcement, and said he never discussed it with him.

"He probably thought he had more authority than he really had to make that statement," Shahan said.

Keffalas announced he would drop the lawsuit as a "show of support for the valiant efforts undertaken by the current city manager . . . in resolving the problems of the sewer system."

His statement came at a time when his work as executive director of the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority was coming under intense scrutiny. Keffalas resigned Tuesday from the Housing Authority after a scathing federal review of his operation of the authority.

He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Shahan said Keffalas tried to telephone him two hours before telling commissioners he was dropping the lawsuit. "I haven't really talked to him since he made that announcement," Shahan said.

Keffalas, Dennis Cole and more than 30 other Tarpon Springs residents, referred to as the Sewer Legal Fund, sued the city in June 1994. The lawsuit said the city was acting illegally by spending sewer impact fees on its reclaimed water system and by forcing selected residents to hook up to the city sewer system.

Mayor Anita Protos said Friday that Keffalas told her recently he intended to drop the lawsuit. "He told me that he had spoken to his attorney and told him to drop the lawsuit," she said.

Protos said she assumes Keffalas intends to follow his intentions. "Why would he go back on his word?" she asked.

One of the city's attorneys, Thomas Trask, said he has been waiting to hear from Shahan. "It would be nice if it's dismissed and the city can use its resources to do other things," he said.

After Keffalas told the commission he was going to drop the complaint, Trask wrote a letter to the plaintiffs' attorney asking when the lawsuit would be dropped. He said he has not received a response from Shahan. "I don't know what they're going to do," he said.

City Manager Costa Vatikiotis said Friday that he had been expecting Keffalas to drop the lawsuit. "I am a little surprised," he said when he learned the lawsuit was not going to be dropped. "I think this lawsuit has gone on long enough."

Shahan said he plans to send a proposed settlement to the city next week. "We're in the mood to settle it," Shahan said. "It's not as clear-cut as Mr. Keffalas had indicated that we're going to drop it."