At the Dec. 27 Westfield City Council meeting, council member Troy Patton gave a report on the council’s legal ad hoc committee’s progress since its establishment at the Dec. 13 meeting. The report led to the council unanimously paying all held invoices from the law firm Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. The council also unanimously approved a motion to hold off paying BKD invoices until after the ad hoc committee had a chance to meet with BKD associates, scheduled for Jan. 2. BKD is a CPA firm.
The ad hoc committee was created after several council members expressed concern that they hadn’t seen detailed invoices regarding over-budget legal expenses at the Dec. 13 meeting. The committee was expected to meet with city attorney and Taft partner Manny Herceg in the days following the council meeting, even though Herceg stated he could only provide detailed information on Taft invoices and not on legal invoices from other firms. The committee consists of council members Patton, Scott Willis and Jake Gilbert.
Patton said the committee examined all of Taft’s invoices and found that approximately $7,400 in expenses were “blacked out,” so that council members couldn’t see them. Herceg agreed to reduce the Taft bill by removing those expenses.
Patton, however, said the committee is still reviewing the BKD invoices. BKD was contracted to conduct a forensic examination for a citywide audit.
“I want to remind everyone that their job was limited to forensic accounting or forensic review only, and I think some of those things we were billed for are completely outside that scope,” Patton said. “I’m speaking with BKD after Jan. 2 when they return. But in any event, I’ve asked for a larger discount on those items as well, and we are not in agreement on those.”
Much of the city’s over-budget legal expenses are the result of litigation between Mayor Andy Cook and Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard.
“A huge chunk of that (overage) was obviously the lawsuits, which for any of us would constitute a failure of governance,” Gilbert said. “We had to pay extra for lawsuits, and everyone is upset about that, and the council has made it clear in the future we will not be funding such things.”
Gilbert said he didn’t want the public to be under the impression that all of the overage was a result of the litigation. Some was accrued because of a change in city attorneys and consulting fees.
The council agreed to pay the Taft expenses and hold off on paying the BKD expenses until further review.
“I do not want to pay the BKD invoices until we have the opportunity to discuss those with them,” Patton said. “In no event does that mean we owe that money or agree to pay that entire amount.”
Gossard requested the encumbered amount for the BKD invoices so that she knows how much to encumber. Patton said he didn’t have the number readily available but that he would provide it at a later date.
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