Saturday, October 4, 2003

Thumbs down: Cost of suing

Paying all the bills

Once again we are seeing what a bad deal Hamilton County made when it negotiated the contracts on Paul Brown Stadium.

The county is rightfully pursuing a suit against the stadium architect because of cost overruns, but the fine print of the agreement says the public has to pay the opposition's legal fees.

We've heard of blind justice, but you really ought to be sure to take the blindfold off before you sign a multi-million dollar contract.

"We have to do it, but it's nuts," said Commissioner Todd Portune about the $218,000 check the county issued Wednesday to the lawyers representing NBBJ Architecture. Portune, who was not a commissioner when the stadium was built, has been a vocal critic of the deal since he came onto the board two years ago.

The county built the stadium with money from a half-cent sales tax approved by the voters. NBBJ, of Los Angeles, is the firm that designed the facility. As part of its contract, the county agreed to buy an insurance policy for the architect to cover errors or negligence, up to $15 million per claim. That policy has a $250,000 deductible.

The stadium cost $451 million - $51 million over budget. Three years ago, the county hired a law firm to see how much of the overrun could be recovered. That firm, which has cost the county $1 million in fees so far, sent NBBJ a letter demanding $45 million.

NBBJ invoked the insurance policy to hire a law firm to defend itself against the demand. So far that firm has charged $218,184, which has to come out of the county's deductible.

It's very simple: If the county doesn't sue, taxpayers pay the overrun. If the county does sue, taxpayers also pay

Such a deal.

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