Legal bill challenged during called meeting
Mayor-elect Troy Oliver questioned the Russellville city council about a legal bill during a called work session Monday night.
Oliver, who will take office Nov. 3, challenged the $195,600 bill paid by the city council to city attorney Jeff Bowling, who submitted an invoice on Oct. 17 and was paid last week.
The bill was paid out of the city's general fund from the new fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2008 until Sept. 30, 2009.
"The city legal fees bill runs from Oct. 2004 to Oct. 2008, and this bill will be within our budget year," said Oliver as he addressed the council. "The (city auditor) wasn't aware of this bill, and we don't believe at this point that this bill is correct.
"We want the money re-paid to the city and then the new council can re-negotiate a reasonable (legal) fee."
According to the 2006-07 budget, $7,200 was allocated for legal expenses, while $40,000 was budgeted for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
The bill included a $5,600 charge for a monthly retainer from March through Oct. 2008 and $195,000 for approximately 2,225.30 hours worked from Oct. 2004 through Oct. 2008.
Bowling charged the city $85 per hour, which is lower than his rate as a private attorney for Bedford, Rogers and Bowling, P.C., for "research, telephone conferences, meetings, negotiations, attendance at hearings, preparation for hearings, document reviews and depositions on behalf of the city in approximately 31 separate legal issues in the past four years," according to the invoice.
"I've talked to Troy but I have not met with him," said Bowling, who agreed to a private meeting at Oliver's request to review the invoice. "I've known Troy all my life, and I consider him a friend but I don't have an attorney-client relationship with the new mayor and council.
"I was retained by (the current council). The next administration will take office (Nov.3), and they will have the option to retain an attorney for the city. I'll continue to represent the city if I'm asked to.
"I'll be glad to meet with him … I find this whole arrangement odd because I haven't been questioned by the current mayor and council (about the bill)."
Arthur Elliott, District 4 councilman, said Bowling should be paid for any legal services he performed as city attorney.
"I think this bill comes from the last four years, and if he did the work, we need to pay," said Elliott. "There were a lot of lawsuits that he worked on, and we need to pay him."