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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Muncie officials won't disclose attorney fees for lawsuit, FBI probe"

Some quotes from a story this evening by Keith Roysdon of the Muncie Star-Press:

MUNCIE, Ind. — City officials won't disclose how much they're paying an Indianapolis law firm to defend a federal court lawsuit and advise Mayor Dennis Tyler regarding an ongoing FBI investigation.

The city refused to release any information sought by The Star Press — the amount paid to attorneys from the Indianapolis law firm of Ice Miller or the number of hours they have devoted to the tasks — citing among other reasons attorney-client privilege. * * *

The city's refusal to release information about attorney fees — which are several hundred dollars an hour according to a contract between the city and Ice Miller — or time the attorneys devoted to those matters came in a letter signed by City Controller Audrey Jones, whose office received the request for information from The Star Press.

The letter notes that The Star Press asked for "draws and amounts for Ice Miller attorneys David Carr, Paul Sweeney plus other attorneys in Shroyer lawsuit and representing Mayor Dennis Tyler for any date."

"This request is not made with reasonable particularity," the letter noted, citing the Indiana standard for release of public records. "Moreover, the city does not have any records containing draws or amounts paid to David Carr or Paul Sweeney or records related to Ice Miller 'representing Mayor Dennis Tyler.' As far as the city knows, Ice Miller does not personally represent Mayor Dennis Tyler, nor would the city possess records related to such a personal representation."

The letter also noted court rulings that "privileged communication between attorney and client is exempt from public inspection because it is declared confidential by statute and Supreme Court rule. Consequently, the request seeks confidential information that is not disclosable."

The office of the Indiana Public Access Counselor told The Star Press that while "attorney invoices are somewhat redacted to protect any attorney-client privileged communication ... the amounts are always public record." That could include everything except a detailed narrative or description of what was communicated. The access counselor comments are from an interview, not from a formal opinion of the public access counselor. Because The Star Press is continuing to seek the information from the city, no formal opinion has been requested. * * *

The Star Press reported in April that the city had hired Ice Miller attorneys to defend the Shroyer Bros. lawsuit in U.S. District Court. At that time, the contract between the city and Ice Miller noted that attorney fees could reach as much as $625 an hour. Lower-level attorneys could make $415 to $560 an hour, while paralegals and legal assistants could be charged at $200 to $300 an hour.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 10, 2016 05:59 PM
Posted to Indiana Government