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Mountain Park Life :: Forums :: City Issues
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The city must stop paying the lakes attorney $20,000 a month

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elton
Wed Jan 21 2009, 01:53am
Registered Member #87
Joined: Thu Dec 01 2005, 11:58pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 16
In speaking with a neighbor, I learned that city hall is and has been issuing $20,000 monthly checks to the lakes litigation firm to pay for past billing, while current billing continues to grow. $20,000 a month is $240,000 a year! That $240,000 is our tax money, going out the door to an attorney who should be on contingency if he believes in himself and his case. How can any attorney expect a small town like ours to shell out so much money for so long? I was told if the attorney does not go on contingency, we will be paying $20,000 a month for years to get the bill paid, since appeals and collecting from the defendants will take years when we win. If the mayor and council think they can raise taxes to cover continued attorney payments and city operations I hope you will be as angry as me. If we keep the payment money of $240,000 instead of padding the attorney’s pocket, we can avoid another attempt to increase our taxes this year like the attempt that failed last year. I can’t afford higher taxes for no good reason. Can you?

I support the lakes litigation. I do not support the money grabbing attorney who doesn’t care about the city’s residents or the financial health of our city. If you are angry too, let it be known that you insist on the attorney changing to contingency NOW.
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George_M
Thu Jan 22 2009, 04:10pm
Registered Member #115
Joined: Mon Mar 06 2006, 02:52pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 71
The City is paying $20,000 each month (this is just for the lake litigation - when the City uses the Shulton Ward Turner law firm for other matters they pay those amounts in addition to the $20k/month), but it is INCURRING as much as $110,000 in legal fees each month, and well over $1.4 million to date for the lake litigation.

Hasn't the number gotten big enough yet to finally cause Council to deal with the legal fees differently? Do we have to get to $2 million? How about $3 million once we get into the appeal process? The number is so big it seems like Monopoly money.

This City is about to the point where amounts owed to the law firm exceed the City's reserves (including the Enterprise Fund). Under any accounting definition, at this point the City will be insolvent. This is quite a legacy for the Mountain Park 2005 - 2009 Mayor and Council.
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George_M
Thu Jan 22 2009, 07:01pm
Registered Member #115
Joined: Mon Mar 06 2006, 02:52pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 71
How is the lake litigation going?

I am frequently asked this question by neighbors who know I follow the pleadings. The answer is clear: Only the lawyers getting paid hourly fees are winning.

The "Daubert Hearing" has concluded. This is the process followed in federal court where judges act as the "gatekeepers" of scientific evidence to be sure evidence presented by expert witnesses is both "relevant" and "reliable." A Magistrate was appointed as the hearing officer for the Daubert Hearing and both sides presented evidence over a couple of weeks. The Judge's well thought-out recommendations were a considerable blow to Mountain Park's case - the recommendations held that the "Penalty Matrix" created by the Mountain Park experts be excluded because it was not reliable or scientific. (The Penalty Matrix is the methodology Mountain Park has created to apportion responsibility between the various defendants.) This is a big deal to the Mountain Park case.

Mountain Park's attorney has filed a 97 page objection to the recommendations of the Magistrate (document 699 in this case). Is it any wonder the City is incurring $100,000+ monthly legal bills? (Who wouldn't like to get paid $325 per hour to draft a 97 page, fully researched and footnoted legal document?) If the Mountain Park attorney is forced to try the case without the Penalty Matrix and the City loses (or if the City is not satisfied with the verdict or award), we are almost guaranteed a trip to the Court of Appeals at Mountain Park's request (Cha-ching), and then if successful at the Court of Appeals, the case will be retried (at $100,000/month - Cha-ching Cha-ching). If Mountain Park wins, the defendants appeal. Cha-ching. When does it end, and who is actually winning here? (The lawyers earning fees by the hour are the only ones grinning.)

Friends and neighbors, Mountain Park's case is not a "slam dunk" (as the citizens were told when the litigation was initiated), and the end is not in sight. Some might report the litigation is not even looking good for Mountain Park at this point. Under a number of reasonable scenarios the lawyers may continue this pre-trial posturing for months and months (Mr. Shelton seems to be particularly fond of this sort of litigation game - and Why not? He is being paid by the hour - the longer it takes the better for him). Cha-ching Cha-ching Cha-ching.

Mountain Park cannot afford to continue down this path.

The City has now spent 50% more in legal fees than it would have cost to clean up Lake Garrett. The "burn rate" for this litigation is now regularly $100,000 per month. It is time for this foolishness to stop, and for the law firm to finally acknowledge to the community that the payment of their fee is contingent on victory and collection. After all, it is the payment of legal fees and litigation expenses which has made the City insolvent.

There are lots of reasons to question the judgment of those who initiated (and those who presently support) this mess, but this is not the thread nor time for a discussion of past mistakes. The City must, however, immediately stop paying the Shulten Ward law firm if there is any hope of surviving the litigation the City commenced in 2005.
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JH
Fri Jan 23 2009, 03:37pm
Registered Member #256
Joined: Thu Nov 01 2007, 08:41pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 40
The only thing separating us from lower taxes is our charter.

link
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WOW
Fri Jan 23 2009, 11:34pm
Registered Member #310
Joined: Tue Mar 11 2008, 04:11am
{LOCATION}Posts: 19
let's review the facts presented previously:

1. We have retained an attorney who could not come close to winning the five enviromental tickets. He lost ALL FIVE.

2. He hires an "expert" that presented UNSCIENTIFIC evidence. (AND WE PAID FOR BOTH OF THEM)

3. The major defendant (80% I believe) is uninsured, out of business and probably without recoverable assets.

4. We are spending six figures each month in legal fees and the case has not even been put on the court docket yet.

Add to that the secretive City Council (thank you George Menden and the FIA).

HELLLLLOOOOOOOO! Littlle League baseball has the run rule and we have exceeded it big time. GIVE UP - CUT OUR LOSSES and look to the future with Obama!
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Keith
Tue Jan 27 2009, 05:53pm
Registered Member #46
Joined: Fri Jul 29 2005, 02:20pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 158
I know that Councilman Baia has brought this up at numerous city council meetings. It was a major topic of discussion over 6 months ago when the proposed property tax increase was being reviewed.

We have citizens who are requesting that the fee structure be renegotiated, we have well meaning council trying to get this done, but time continues to march on and we continue to pay exorbitant bills to the attorney.

Perhaps the collapse of our charter due to bankruptcy isn't so far fetched?
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JH
Wed Jan 28 2009, 08:53pm
Registered Member #256
Joined: Thu Nov 01 2007, 08:41pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 40
"We don't want to be like Roswell."
"We are unique and don't want to change."
"Move to Roswell if you don't like it here."
"Maybe you are living in the wrong town."
"We are the mouse that roared."
"We must stay the course in the lake litigation."
"Our attorney fees will be paid by the developers."
"So you must be against the lakes."

The above statements have been answers (or insults) offered to those questioning the city government or even suggesting we take a look at our options.

********************************************************
Then there is positive leadership. The statements below are quotes taken from today's Roswell Neighbor newspaper made by Roswell mayor Jere Wood:

"Roswell has not escaped the recession, but I believe we have fared better than most."
"I can tell you there will be no property tax increase, we will not have layoffs, we will not have furloughs and we will be able to continue our current level of operations and not drop the level of services."
"We have $31 million in savings, and $15 million of that is set aside for a rainy day. That leaves us $16 million available for capital projects."

*********************************************************

An elected government that budgets not a single dollar for road repair and maintenance is irresponsible. An elected government that seeks grant funds to improve a community building that recently was upgraded instead of maintaining the bridge across the lakes has shirked its responsibility. An elected government that defers paying its bills and passes the problem to future councils and taxpayers to solve is out of touch. An elected government that has put the lawsuit on auto-pilot without demanding a change in the fee arrangement has lost its way and commits fiduciary malfeasance monthly. Are our city officials intimidated by our lawyer?

It has now become more than the lawsuit. We have a strong case, for a recall election anyway. The newly elected officials are a disappointment.
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Nua Chua
Thu Jan 29 2009, 09:11pm
Registered Member #165
Joined: Mon Oct 16 2006, 11:35pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 103
Hi JH


No one listens.

This is normal and I haven't figured out how to handle that here. Possibly no one listens because no one understands. They have unrealistic hope that our government will take care of them and not think much further.

The problem is always the city council which shows the problem is more than any one city council.

It is common sense that most residents are not qualified because they don't have any experience to make decisions regarding the city, yet no one listens but it is obvious. There are a few exceptions.

I too have been suspicious of timidity with dealing with this attorney. What would you expect from resident council members having no experience with this?

Even preventive maintenance to keep things from getting worse isn't done here. What about painting the rusty spots at the base of the piers for the bridge?? I'm talking a wire brush by hand and some paint would be better than nothing.

Utilities under the ground, well let's just not think about that since most of them can't envision what is there anyway to foresee what preventive maintenance needs to be done anyway.

Preserving the lakes takes an expert especially with the finances and getting what we pay for. How about the detention pond systems with the associated easements needed to prevent a reoccurrence? What about the maintenance of these ponds and the expense there? Any money would go quick with no accountability there too but it would go to contractors and engineers being overpaid.

That is why the problem is bigger than one past or present city council.

If anything that stands out in my mind from studying History is that the public usually doesn't listen. It could be due to the lack of understanding.

For illustration, before World War 2 and before Hitler built his war machine, many people including Winston Churchill stated that we had better reign in Hitler now. In reality, diplomats and the public didn't listen and made attempts to appease Hitler even after he invaded a few neighboring countries. The public was told and we still had the most destructive war that there ever was.
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Wild Magnolia
Mon Feb 02 2009, 08:13pm
Registered Member #163
Joined: Fri Oct 13 2006, 09:57pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 44
Question to all who beat down ,rant and rave on the city and her council:

Elton -is this neighbor you are speaking of George Menden , Jim Wright , Frank Baia or any of the others who are FANS(some of those have jumped ship to the other side or are trying to sell their home)?

Have you attended any presentations showing how & why the lawsuit is as it is? Spoken directly to a council person past or present or the lawyer when he came out to give his a status update( for free) to get the real facts on the lake litigation? Could be it is time to have a current update from Lake committee.

I really do not think that city councils(3 different ones to date) would stay on this path if they haven't already investigated other avenues or believed there were any other choices .

Is there a way you could use your verbiage to be productive, work together, creating unity instead of discontent and discord?

Our councils(past and present) have been made up of selfless concerned citizens who sacrifice their spare time away from family and friends going above and beyond to make sure that Mountain Park maintains and remains the beautiful haven that she is.

Pick your battles, choose them wisely, where were you when the lake litigation first began? We may not always agree but history shows us that the winning team has the strength in numbers.

"Unity we stand divided we fall"

YES WE CAN!
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Nua Chua
Mon Feb 02 2009, 11:42pm
Registered Member #165
Joined: Mon Oct 16 2006, 11:35pm
{LOCATION}Posts: 103
If you get on the city council here you're wearing a target, a real sitting duck.

Wild Magnolia you made me think and I need to clarify something. The composition and knowledge of our city council is comparable to other city councils that I've been involved with in my opinion. They are capable of making the same decisions as other council members make in other cities. Council members in other cities know that they are political targets and the good ones always have an out because they got opinions to blame their decisions on.

I really was surprised after not reading this web site for a year that the first thing I read was something to the effect of displeasure with this council council. There needs to be some standard operating procedures for everything that they do. This really needs to be resolved or no one will want to be on the city council. There has to be a new alternative to dealing with the expertise problem and not just a committee or one guest speaker with limited credentials. They may not be aware of what they don't know.

When I mentioned making decisions, I meant in perspective of these other responsibilities that are not normal for council members like build a road or install a water main. If they want to hire a lawyer in other cities they have an employee or legal department with the expertise to hire and negotiate with a lawyer but they would not be doing it themselves. The council members in other cities know that they are wearing a target so they limit their exposure with employees advice. They can blame the employee. This no employee and no expert opinion is what makes our situation seriously problematic.
The same should be said that the city council should not be making decisions to pay for things that they don't know enough about.

In other cities council members represent.
In other places where these council members make an appearance, they have every employee and expert opinion there with them. Actually, they're protected so as not let them make fools out of themselves. They can't know everything so what would you expect a good employee to do?

The city of Pine lake is as close as you can get and the council members there never attempted to do these other things. They would get help when it was out of the cities expertise. I got sent there on several occasions in my area of expertise years ago to help them. They couldn't afford to have a utility professional on the payroll there and we can't here either. That does not furnish an excuse for unqualified people to be doing it here either.

If they don't have the employees then there needs to be a method of obtaining expert opinion before they make a decision and the other members need to make sure that this is followed. I know the council now has more committees but that isn't enough because of the randomness and members change over time.

For example, if a city council member wanted a water main (but it just as well be a new street-Director of Roads & Drainage) the chain of events would be go to the director of water and sewer then the director goes to his employees, engineers or engineering firm. They would never be doing any of these things on their own as a city council.
Years ago, I mentioned letting another lawyer review our litigation lawyers bill. My intention was a chain reaction because I felt that when that responsibility was placed on the lawyer he would have been ethically responsible to question the bills direct with our lawyer with a mutual understanding between both of them. That was many dollars ago. Just hiring or asking a lawyer to approve the bills would have had repercussions to our benefit.
I doubt if there was sufficient expert opinion with this litigation as far as managing it. Of course the taking action was right and commendable but to let one area like negotiating with the attorney give us this many problems was damaging to the original objective, IMO.

Presently, I assume they have been consulting with experts on how to proceed with the litigation in the current situation.

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