Are you frickin kidding me??!! Federally indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder is once again trying to get the city to pay his attorney fees? Sounds like a repeat of his September 2016 scam, when Snyder had the Utility Board issue over $90,000 in checks to the attorneys who represented him during the FBI investigation.
Payment of legal fees questioned in Portage
July 21, 2017
Portage residents and businesses may have to pay nearly $20,000 in legal fees to a Chicago-based law firm Mayor James Snyder and the former utility services board hired during the mayor's battles with the City Council last February, officials said.
Earlier this month, the council, which replaced the seven-member utility services board in early March, declined to pay — for now — a $19,651 bill from Faegre Baker Daniels. The board approved the rest of the claims for June, from office toilet paper to field uniforms, as long as the law firm's tab was removed.
According to a detailed invoice from Faegre Baker Daniels, the $19,651 bill is based on multiple attorneys working 41.5 hours between Feb. 5 and Feb. 23, for an average rate of about $473.50 an hour. The invoice provided to the Post-Tribune does not include detailed descriptions of the work provided.
In early February, Faegre Baker Daniels wrote a two-page letter to the council claiming the council's attempts to stop paying Snyder's salary as head of the utility services board was illegal. In late February and early March, the council backed down from ordinances stripping Snyder of his pay, but the council then replaced the sitting board with city council members.
Balking at making the payment, however, doesn't mean residents and businesses who pay for sewage service won't have to pay up at some time, council members and attorney Ken Elwood said.
"I'm going to indicate when you engage the services of an attorney, you don't necessarily have control over the cost and where they go with it," Elwood said Friday. "It's a moving target. It can get expensive if the person who hired them is not managing (the expenses)."
Elwood represents both the council and the utility services board in the city.
The former board, under direction from Snyder and made mostly of his appointments, voted on Feb. 8 to hire Faegre Baker Daniels to stop the council from stripping Snyder of his $30,000 salary, but the law firm's invoice indicates the firm began work on the case Feb. 5.
The $19,651 in fees riled some council members.
"I don't think the (former) board should've hired a law firm to go out and investigate this for them," said Councilman Collin Czilli. "They had an attorney they were paying that could've done the work.
"I don't think we should (pay), but, if we're ordered to pay (Faegre Baker Daniels' legal fees) by a court of if legal counsel advises it, then we may have to pay for it."
Council President Mark Oprisko said the former board's hiring of the Chicago law firm as "unfortunate," but Oprisko said he's inclined to fight at least part of the firm's expenses.
"I personally feel that anything prior to Feb 8, before there was action taken by the former board to vote on hiring (Faegre Baker Daniels) shouldn't be paid," Oprisko said. "Anything prior to the eighth (of February) probably is not going to get paid by the USB."
Elwood and Oprisko said Snyder told them he will ask Faegre Baker Daniels to lower the bill, but Snyder did not return calls seeking comment.
The mayor may have had the legal right to hire the law firm and ask the former board to ratify it, but the situation is "complicated," Elwood said.
"The mayor, as president of the utility services board, could engage the services of an attorney and have it later ratified by the utility services board," Elwood said. "It could be interpreted as legal, (Snyder) engaging the (Faegre Baker Daniels) services on the fifth (of February) and having it ratified on the eighth (of February), but, if all you got from it was a two-page letter, that's a pretty extreme bill."