The legal services agreement for Karen Hatten is up for review and Attorney Hatten has requested the contract be increased by 25%. Initially Councilor Rhett Bullard made a motion to accept the contract and Mayor Lofton seconded the motion and it was up for discussion.
Councilor McKenzie stated he would like to hear what Attorney Hatton has to say since the contract is up by 25%. The current contract was written in accordance with former Attorney Koberlein’s contract and Koberlein had not charged a rate increase for four or five years.
Hatton stated that she elected to update the contract, most likely because of inflation, due to the fact that the contract itself was “old”. Hatton stated she does not bill for every phone call as Koberlein previously did because it is inefficient and costs more to produce than what it is worth. Hatton’s bills only for representation for meetings and has requested $309 for Attending Meetings and $143 an hour. Her normal rate outside of the Town’s contract is $250 an hour.
Councilor Bullard indicated her monthly billings were less than $500 a month and although billings are not sent to the Town monthly, a billing for three months was $1,207 or around $400 a month. The contract is a yearly contract. The only Municipality represented by Attorney Hatton is the Town of White Springs and Councilor Bullard indicated we are fortunate to have Hatton because the Town has difficulty in having attorneys represent it. It was understood that Attorney Koberlein represents several municipalities.
Walter McKenzie stated he did not wish to entertain the contract because the voters would require him to negotiate the increase. Rather than charging 25% could there be an increase of only 10% or 15%.
The motion did not carry because without Councilor Brown attending the meeting it was a 2/2 vote.
Attorney Hatton stated that the contract allowed for a 60 day notice either way and as such, she will complete the ordinances required without a contract and work for a 60 day period, until a decision is reached.
Councilor Bullard argued that an attorney should receive more money for representation and that this amount was within the budget since Attorney Hatton has not charged that much monthly.
I apparently could not find a contract for Attorney Koberlein but remembered, and I acknowledge it was because of “litigation” that he charged $140 an hour and charged for each minute thereof. In fact he charged $140 an hour for sitting and listening to the Attorney representing FMIT in our civil rights case and advised me of such in an e-mail I could not find. The only contract I could find was with respect to Robinson, Kennon and Kendron PA during Mayor McKire’s reign. At that time the attorney’s administrative billing rate was $100/hour; the litigation billing rate (for any lawsuits filed by the Town or against the Town ) was $140 an hour; paralegal and legal assistants’ billing rate was $60 an hour; copying costs were $.20 a copy; facsimile costs were $1.00 per page and $2.00 a page for sending and travel mileage was $0.58 a mile. All I can recall is Attorney Koberlein in our legal arguments expressed to me he would not charge the Town the $140.00 per hour. Apparently Karen Hatton charges $115 per hour and whether she has separate costs in her contract is unknown, but I feel she may be getting fleeced because we have continually paid attorneys $300 an hour. I realize Ms. Hatton is a criminal rather than a civil law attorney which apparently is a problem especially with her answers regarding the Local Option Fuel Tax without reviewing said statute but taking the CPA’s opinion. And Rhett is correct, we cannot get attorneys to represent our town because of all of our illegal dealings and our inability to follow attorney’s advise. It was noted when he made his comment the audience laughed because even Karen Hatton was requested to submit a proposal after the deadline.
Since Karen Hatton has to drive to this area for meetings, it is unknown if she is charging mileage at the Federal statutory rate allowed business travel.
Karin for the blog