Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Legal tiff over stadium pricey

Law firm's big tab going to taxpayers

By Dan Klepal, dklepal@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Taxpayers have paid law firm Ice Miller nearly $400,000 in hopes of getting back a large payday: a portion of the $51 million in overruns that happened during construction of Paul Brown Stadium.

        But really, they've spent more and just don't know it yet.

   Some examples of the most recent work done for Hamilton County by law firm Ice Miller:

    • “Research of legal issues,” 7.8 hours, $1,872.

    • “Attention to scheduling meetings; worked on legal and potential claim issues,” 6.2 hours, $1,488.

    • “Traveled to Cincinnati; attended meeting with commissioners and other officials,” two attorneys at 9 hours each, $4,320.

    • “Returned phone call; attention to document review procedure; e-mail requesting file materials; attention to stadium construction issues,” 5.4 hours, $1,296.

        The latest invoice from the Indianapolis firm runs only through November. That means there have been nearly six months of additional work done — at an average of $240 per hour — that has not been billed.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said he is disappointed at how much money has been spent compared with how much commissioners have learned about potential recoveries.

        And Mr. Portune, a lawyer, said most firms bill on a more regular basis.

        “I would expect more up-to-date billing,” Mr. Portune said. “And given the amount of money spent, I would expect us to be much further along.”

        Commissioner Tom Neyer also said he was “surprised” that there is a six-month lag in billing. But Mr. Neyer said he thinks the money spent has been a wise investment.

        “I think pursuit of recovery is a very worthwhile effort at this point,” Mr. Neyer said.

        Commissioners have received two closed-door briefings on the lawsuit. A third update was scheduled for mid-May. It never happened.

        Roger Friedman, an assistant county prosecutor, said a presentation will be made to commissioners soon. But he would not say when.

        Mr. Friedman also said Ice Miller will begin billing in a more timely manner soon.

        “That's something we're addressing now, and I expect we'll get something much more up-to-date in the very near future,” Mr. Friedman said, adding that he knows but will not say how much more will be billed for work since November.

        Regardless, Mr. Friedman said he believes taxpayers are getting their money's worth.

        “It's been my observation that they've been working on it very hard,” Mr. Friedman said. “It's a mammoth undertaking, to go back after the fact and look at everything that's occurred on the job.”

        The latest invoice — $91,353 that covers work and expenses for October and November — shows 11 Ice Miller attorneys working on the case. Five of them with the most hours make $240 an hour.

        Four other attorneys make $140 per hour.

        In addition to the attorney's fees, a list of expenses was submitted with the bill. The firm charged county taxpayers $1,975 for photocopies made during October and November.


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