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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Legal fees growing in town’s sewer bid: Huntertown officials defend amount spent"

Vivian Sade had this story in the Sunday Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Here is just the beginning of the very long story:

In its ongoing battle to expand utility services and break ties with Fort Wayne City Utilities, Huntertown paid its attorney more than a quarter of a million dollars in the first five months of this year.

Through May, the town, which has an annual budget of $1.7 million, is spending at a rate many times higher than towns of similar size. It trails slightly behind Allen County government, which has 33 departments and an annual budget of $159 million.

Payments of $304,397 for legal services were approved between Jan. 1 and May 30 by members of the Huntertown Utilities Service Board and the Town Council. Most of it was for utility-related matters including the town’s disputes with Fort Wayne City Utilities and for ongoing litigation with local developers. Just over $238,000 of that was paid to David Hawk, the town’s longtime attorney.

An additional $259,948 in engineering and consulting fees were paid during that same time, also largely related to utilities issues and for a wastewater treatment plant that has yet to be approved by the state.

If Hawk had worked for the town 40 hours a week during those months – which is unlikely since he has a full-time practice and is paid a retainer and for services as needed by Huntertown – he earned $298 an hour. No detailed invoices or a breakdown of the charges were available.

But Hawk said he has spent many hours on Huntertown issues. * * *

There is no such thing as an average fee for attorneys in northeast Indiana, with rates running from $75 an hour on the low end to $500 on the high end.

“It all depends on the complexity of the case and the expertise and experience of the attorney,” Allen Superior Court Judge Nancy Eshcoff Boyer said.

“I’m speculating, but I would think you would be hard-pressed to find an attorney (in this area) charging less than $125 an hour,” she said

Attorneys who work for Allen County are paid $150 an hour, county Auditor Tera Klutz said.

The county employs numerous attorneys from a dozen different law firms. While some may be paid a salary, all are paid hourly for special issues or litigation, she said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 24, 2014 08:16 AM
Posted to Indiana Government