Monday, February 3, 2014

Blackmons overcharging? We report, you decide.

The Clarion-Ledger finally tackled a subject near and dear to our hearts at JJ: government-paid legal fees. One of the open secrets of Mississippi government is the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees cities and counties pay to their pet lawyers. The newspaper reported:


With attorneys commonly charging $100 to $150 per hour, legal fees can take a big bite out of a city’s finances, especially in cities that have been involved in annexation battles.

In the 2013 calendar year, the city of Biloxi paid $581,741 to one law firm, Page, Mannino, Peresich & McDermott PLLC. Biloxi paid another $127,088 to Michael P. Collins and $306,368 to Carroll Warren & Parker. Biloxi’s total cost for legal services in 2013 was more than $1 million.

In these days of very tight budgeting, some Mississippi cities have opted to save money by hiring an in-house attorney. Gulfport, for example, uses outside counsel in addition to matters handled by City Attorney Jeff Brunini.

“The specialized knowledge of municipal law and access provided by an in-house legal department coupled with the experience and skills of outside general counsel provides enhanced resources and support for the city’s administration, council and departmental functions,” said Chris Vignes, spokesman for the city of Gulfport.

The city of Tupelo expects it will save in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $200,000 per year by hiring an in-house attorney whose salary package is $90,000 per year. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said legal bills from the law firm that has handled Tupelo’s legal needs for many years, Mitchell McNutt & Sams, were running in the mid-$300,000 range per year.

“The two things that jump out about the advantages of an in-house counsel is convenience and cost savings,” Shelton said. “Our in-house attorney is just that. He is here when we need him. We can walk over to his office. We can get him to attend a department head meeting or any type of staff meeting. We don’t get a bill for attending those day-to-day meetings to make sure we are in compliance and what we are doing is by the books.” Rest of the article

Local governments use a mix of outside counsel and "in-house" attorneys. Cities such as Jackson and Madison hire attorneys as employees and use outside counsel when specialized work is needed. They pay their attorneys $120-$130,000 per year. Then there is Canton.

The new administration hired Monica Joiner as an employee at $88,000 per year. The city previously retained the law firm of Blackmon & Blackmon for legal counsel. Needless to say, the Blackmons did what they do best: gouging the city. Here are the legal fees for their last three years:

FY 2013 (Oct.1 2012- May 22, 2013): $153,120
FY 2012: $244,865
FY 2011: $259,165

The Blackmons also were not too cheap were bond work was concerned. They charged $71,800 in fees for work on a $7.18 million bond issue in 2011 for the City of Canton. Compare the fees charged for that issue to others charged by other law firms for similar work in Mississippi in the document posted below. JJ reviewed bond issues and fees published on the Department of Finance & Administration's website.



15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I be lovin' me some democrats. May we always have them around to remind us of what not to do.

Anonymous said...

Attorneys are a tight knit profession. More often they forget who is paying their fee and whom they should be representing, their fiduciary. Hold on to your ass when you deal with them; you will eventually get screwed.

Anonymous said...

It's that extra day in September each year that's running up the cost. See headings: "10/01/11 thru 09/31/12" on ledger sheets.

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that several of these bond fees were a percentage of the bond. 1% or very close to 1%. I bet the larger ones have a sliding scale.

Anonymous said...

Note some of the fees for legal work on bonds was to the "in house counsel" Example: Charles Lawrence is the Hattiesburg city attorney but appears was paid extra for bond issue in 2012

Anonymous said...

Look in the Jackson paper - Advertisement for Canton Ms - Half Page Ad for 5 House repair - Needs to be in by 3:00 pm on the 6th - Looking for Admin and Company - Want to guess the winner is - Blackmon and Blackmon - paid by MDA - can you believe this crap - this is why we are last people - we need to wake up

Anonymous said...

And people wonder how they pay cash for Bentley's and other luxuries.

Anonymous said...

2:05, B&B will not go after this. Caps on fees, and some limited oversight. " A friend " of theirs will get this bit of graft

Anonymous said...

These two are thick as thieves...pun intended!

Anonymous said...

This move won't save any taxpayer money because, for the most part, the government lawyers being hired in-house are political appointees with no real legal skill or somebody connected's kid who has no experience. These positions are being created to milk the system (see also, "false expense reports"). Any time actual legal work has to be done, these government agencies will still have to hire outside counsel, because Legislator Joe Bob's nephew, who just graduated from law school and is making $120,000 a year, is too incompetent and/or inexperienced to handle the work. Go ask Butler Snow how nervous they are about the "in-housing" of lawyers in government.

Anonymous said...

Go Blackmon and Blackmon. Edward Blackmon is a George University graduate and member of D C Bar and MS. Barbara Blackmon got a Masters in Tax Law from New York University and is a member of New York Bar and MS Bar. Report what the former speaker Tim Ford gets on every bond issue in the State. Report on what Butler Snow gets. Then you would have fair and balanced. You just got to love MS. No wonder you all stay at the bottom of everything since 1937 when they started reporting. Get a life and let the Blackmon's earn their living. No one has given them anything.

Anonymous said...

Canton's city attorney has gone to contract because she was given no secretary, no West law, no Lexis Nexis, nada. She can't do her work. So your savior, Arnel, didn't save the City squat. I know you people in MS don't research anything before you write. Clarion Ledger is a joke and so is kingfish. Bet you won't publish this kingfish.

Kingfish said...

The shade of Eric Hamer disagrees with you. He didn't like the scrutiny of his legal bills. At all.

Kingfish said...

Actually some of you raise good points and indirectly raise the question of why some don't care about Canton. There are two groups. The Blackmons and the Montgomerys. Think of Fistful of Dollars. They both take turns at controlling everything to the detriment of everyone.

Sometimes, there aren't any good guys.

Anonymous said...

"Edward Blackmon is a George University graduate "

Well now I'm impressed.

Pray tell, where is "George University"?

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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