Wednesday, July 1, 2009

$3.9 Million in Legal Fees

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 4:19 PM

This morning, in our regular weekly meeting, we were discussing the city offering former MLGW director and now city parks deputy director Joseph Lee a $426,000 settlement for legal fees he accrued while under indictment.

After the City Council said they wouldn't pay his legal fees — which, at almost $900 a day, some people thought were excessive — Lee sued the city. (And, if memory serves me right, council member Barbara Swearengen Ware said she hoped he would.)

Lee's attorney is Robert Spence, who was once the city attorney. The city attorney's office is the one who has offered the settlement. Lee is once again working for the administration, an administration that is leaving office rather shortly.

This all got me thinking about some information I requested and never got around to using: How much the city and county pay their various attorneys and legal counsel.

Using numbers from 2007 to 2009, the city's 19 full-time attorneys' combined salary is around $1,631,308. City attorney Elbert Jefferson makes $121,491.24 annually.

Salaries for the six part-time attorneys were a total of $369,259.02.

(This is kind of a moving target. Though I have info for attorneys with the city in 2007, I didn't include them if they no longer worked for the city. Also, this data is from a few months ago, so there is certainly a chance people have left or been given pay raises or whatnot.

Why don't I get more current data, you ask? I had to get this through a Freedom of Information Act request, and they sometimes take a while.]

Over at the county side, its 16 full-time attorneys are paid a total $1,383,656. County attorney Brian Kuhn makes $144,876.

The county's 14 part-time attorneys (Seriously, 14?!?) are paid a total of $574,270, which, just in case you're interested, breaks down to $48,000 a month.

UPDATED: It is interesting to compare Spence and his fees in the Lee case for roughly 16 months of work to what the city and county are paying their attorneys. Granted, he's in the private sector, but, at this rate, he's getting fees close to the combined salary for five of the six part-time attorneys at the city.

Mediaverse points out that this figure is for Spence and a team of staffers he had working on the case, and thus is not actually Spence's salary. He is the co-founder of his law firm, however.

UPDATE AGAIN: The City Council has released a letter from ITS attorney, Allan Wade, stating that he believes the city attorney's office has authority, with the mayor's approval, to settle any litigation or claims in excess of $500.

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