As the city of Salem looks to wrangle its unwieldy general fund — which pays for parks, police, firefighters and other services — the Salem City Council on Monday will consider a new expense.

Councilors are being asked to earmark $120,000 to pay the attorney fees for a news organization that successfully sued the city for the arrest records of a man convicted of child abuse.

After three years in court, Pamplin Media Group won its case last September when the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 ruling in Marion County Circuit Court and ordered Salem to release the records. The Oregon Supreme Court didn’t accept Salem’s appeal.

READ: Salem continues to fight arrest records at unknown cost to taxpayers

The case focuses on a request from the weekly Woodburn Independent in 2015 for records related to Salem’s arrest of a local man. City officials turned down the request, claiming state law protecting information about child abuse stood in the way. The Marion County District Attorney’s office and then the circuit court sided with the city.

The appeals court said they were wrong, however, and said the public was entitled to documents about the arrest.

Then, on April 9, the appeals court ordered Salem to pay the Portland-based news organization’s $63,791.20 in attorney fees. Costs from the trial are still being deliberated.

“Oregon public records law provides for an award of attorney fees to individuals whose requests are denied, but then prevail on appeal,” City Manager Steve Powers wrote in a staff report. “This requested transfer is intended to cover the amount necessary for the appellate attorney fee award and a potential trial court attorney fee award.”

The resolution before city council would move the funds from the city’s contingency funds to be paid out of the city’s materials and services funds.

The one-time expense nearly equals the city’s $150,000 annual expense for D.A.R.E., a drug abuse education program that Powers last week proposed be dropped because the city can no longer afford it. He has recommended other budget cuts as well, but not because of the legal costs.

READ: City manager proposes cuts to homeless aid, youth programs to help general fund

The city’s final bill for fighting the records case won’t be known for some time because both sides continue to argue in court over the fees and what records to disclose.

Attorney Adele Ridenour, representing Pamplin, wrote that the law firm is owed another $63,791.20 for its costs in fighting the records in Marion County Circuit Court.

Thomas Cupani, deputy city attorney, said in a recent court filing that the attorney’s fees are “issues yet to be litigated.”

The city has yet to provide the Woodburn newspaper the records, maintaining in court filings it needs more guidance from a judge about what it should release.

Oregon law says a record of arrest “includes, but is not limited to” a number of points of information. Such points include biographical information of the arrested person, the offense they were charged and the circumstances of the arrest.

Salem Reporter requested the arrest records last week.

City Attorney Dan Atchison said in an email that the city intends to release the “arrest record,” and that the city is “asking the circuit court whether the records we are proposing to release are consistent with the Court of Appeals decision.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.