By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The same Cincinnati officials who lambasted a Berkeley, Calif., lawyer appointed to monitor police reforms over his $55,000 bill have quietly paid another outside lawyer more than $1 million for similar charges in the past 15 months.
Dr. Alan Kalmanoff, who resigned as monitor last week after a month on the job, was accused by the mayor and city council of bilking taxpayers by billing the city for media interviews, reading e-mails, meeting with officials and various travel expenses.
But those are identical to charges that high-profile Washington, D.C., lawyer Billy Martin has billed the city month after month without any complaint at all from city officials.
The difference in itemized charges: Mr. Martin's are much higher.
Now council members - who say they don't want to be seen as hypocrites - are calling for a review of Mr. Martin's expenses.
"For us to say we're not going to worry about it is unfair. It would make us hypocrites," said Councilman Chris Monzel, who recently referred to Dr. Kalmanoff as Dr. Ripoff. "I didn't know about these bills. It makes me upset and it makes me aggravated."
Even though the lawyers were hired for different purposes, their ultimate job was to help the city, Mr. Monzel said. "I honestly don't think there is a difference between them."
City Manager Valerie Lemmie says by the end of the month the city will have a new handbook for dealing with outside lawyers that will outline proper expenses.
Mr. Martin's firm was hired by the city in June 2001 to help negotiate two landmark legal settlements that ended a federal probe of the police department and suspended a civil rights lawsuit against the city. Their work has cost taxpayers $1,030,402, an average of $68,693 a month.
Itemized bills obtained by the Enquirer under the state's Open Records Act show that Mr. Martin is getting $225 an hour and his associates $135-$225 an hour.
That's more than double the $100-an-hour charge that Dr. Kalmanoff billed.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott appointed Dr. Kalmanoff Oct. 10 after she became convinced that the four parties in the settlements - the city, the police union, a group of African-American activists and the U.S. Department of Justice - could not agree on one of 11 applicants.
The monitor's job is to oversee the police department's overhaul of training, use-of-force and citizen's complaint policies. The monitor will also review efforts by community groups to improve police-community relations. Judge Dlott has scheduled a Friday conference about replacing Dr. Kalmanoff.
The city is responsible for paying the monitor's costs.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Charlie Luken blasted Dr. Kalmanoff as arrogant and refused to pay his bill. In a terse series of e-mails, Mayor Luken told the monitor to quit and stop working. He also threatened to back out of the agreement if Judge Dlott did not appoint a replacement for Dr. Kalmanoff.
But Friday, Mr. Luken, who went to law school with Mr. Martin at the University of Cincinnati, refused to comment about the Washington attorney's bills.
$3,000 trips and costly calls
Among Dr. Kalmanoff's charges:
$675 for a ride-along with a police officer.
$100 for reviewing e-mails, packing and getting ready for travel.
$150 for an interview with an Enquirer reporter.
Among Mr. Martin's charges:
$562 for a telephone call with a city lawyer; a meeting about the outcome of settlement talks; review of media reports about the settlement and discussion with an associate about the settlement.
$3,037 for a one-day trip to Cincinnati to meet with various city officials and talk about a letter the city sent to the Department of Justice.
$506 for reviewing Enquirer articles, reviewing the Department of Justice agreement and a phone call to a city lawyer.
"One difference is that Billy Martin was hired to represent the city," Councilman Pat DeWine said.
"We needed someone with experience in the Justice Department to help us. But I have a hard time believing that his bills are as outrageous as Dr. Kalmanoff's."
Mr. Martin is a former assistant city prosecutor in Cincinnati who rose to the No. 3 spot at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C.
He has helped prosecute organized crime families in Chicago, supervised the grand jury investigation of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry and represented Monica Lewinsky's mother during the investigation of President Clinton.
Mr. Martin's normal rate is about $400 an hour. He has been charging the city a discounted rate of $225 because he said he wants to help in solving the city's racial tensions. He declined comment Friday.
"We hired him as our lawyer," Councilman David Pepper said. "This is a different situation than when (Dr. Kalmanoff) handed a bill to the city manager."
Council members described Dr. Kalmanoff's bill as the proverbial last straw. They stressed there were other issues, including his refusal to answer questions about his job and his unwillingness to discuss specific costs with council during a meeting he charged them $200 to attend.
They also questioned whether Dr. Kalmanoff had overstepped the boundaries of the specific agreements.
"Kalmanoff came into this town and acted like he was the czar of the police force," Councilman John Cranley said.
BUF bills still not paid
Councilman James Tarbell said all expenses should be reviewed.
"I think a bill from any (outside lawyer) should undergo scrutiny," he said. "There should be no double standard."
Ms. Lemmie said once the expense handbook is complete there won't be any danger of a double standard.
Although council members repeatedly said they were unaware of Mr. Martin's bills, Ms. Lemmie said she could not authorize payments without approval from lawmakers.
She denied that the unwillingness to pay Dr. Kalmanoff while continuing to pay Mr. Martin reflects any bias or attempt by the city to avoid paying its share of the agreement.
But it isn't the first time the city has balked at paying legal fees. In the waning days of settlement negotiations, talks almost broke down because elected officials refused to pay bills for lawyers representing the Black United Front, the activists who sued the city.
The $600,000 bill is still not fully paid.
Al Gerhardstein, the Black United Front's lawyer, said he isn't surprised by Mr. Martin's bill. He said all of the lawyers put in hundreds of hours to make the settlements a reality.
"I guess I hope at some point we can turn from the battle over fees," he said, "and refocus on very important and exciting work we are doing,"
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