« Ind. Courts - "Justice Dickson reflects on judges, judging, growing up in Hobart" | Main | Courts - Penn. Court says porn emails aren't public records under Penn law »

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "How much do contractors charge St. Joseph County taxpayers?"

That is the headline to this Sunday South Bend Tribune story by Jeff Parrott. The story looks at fees for legal services charged to St. Joseph County by various law firms, and how at least one of them appears to have failed to disclose its hourly rates or time spent. From the story:

St. Joseph County government has paid Barnes & Thornburg about $320,000 for legal services over the past three and a half years, but the time the law firm spent doing that work remains a mystery.

County commissioners last week vetoed a county council bill that would have required public disclosure of such information before any firm is allowed to provide professional services, legal or otherwise, to the county. The bill’s author, council member Jamie O’Brien, said taxpayers have the right to know how much time is spent performing legal work, accounting, consulting and engineering services, even if the firm is paid on a fixed-fee basis.

A Tribune review of the county’s expenditures for legal services, from documents obtained through a public records request, revealed that eight of the county’s 10 contracted firms from 2012 through June of this year disclosed their hourly rates on invoices given to the county. Those eight firms each billed the county at a $125 hourly rate.

The two firms that did not specify time spent on all of their invoices were Barnes & Thornburg, which was paid the most among the 10 firms, and attorney Kathleen Cekanski-Farrand, who was paid $14,375. She told The Tribune she billed the county either $95 an hour or $105 an hour, but mostly $105.

Barnes & Thornburg did detail time on an invoice for $177,000 it was paid for work done on the 911 center consolidation project. In that invoice, Barnes & Thornburg attorney Phillip J. Faccenda Jr. billed the county for the most work, totaling 242.2 hours. His $450 hourly rate amounted to his payment of $108,990, for a period of time equivalent to about six 40-hour work weeks.

Nine other Barnes & Thornburg attorneys were paid a combined $176,622 for 388.5 hours of work on the project, for a combined average hourly rate of $455.

O’Brien, an attorney and certified public accountant, said he realizes that bond work, such as that performed by Barnes & Thornburg in the 911 center consolidation project, is highly specialized and can cost more than typical legal work.

Barnes & Thornburg did not disclose time its attorneys spent on invoices for the remaining $142,473 it was paid for other legal work, according to copies of the invoices. The work included $52,448 billed in June to refund bonds on the jail building, $39,248 to refund bonds from the Logan Street Bridge rehabilitation project; and $6,695 on the 911 center.

Barnes & Thornburg officials did not return messages left over two days seeking comment.

The story includes a chart.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 23, 2015 01:14 PM
Posted to Indiana Government