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.


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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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

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!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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