The city of Attleboro has paid more than $231,000 in legal fees to the city solicitor for nearly 1,277 billable hours from January through March 2011, Robert Mangiaratti, the city's attorney, told members of the Attleboro City Council Tuesday.
The city has faced huge legal expenses because of the several litigation cases brought against the city and the increase in foreclosures the city's collection department has faced, Mangiaratti said.
"I’ve long thought this information should see the fresh air and sunlight," Councilor Richard Conti told members of the council. Conti said the several pages of details will help the members of the City's Committtee on Property & Claims see whether the city is exposing itself to lawsuits and whether the city should be taking legal action against others.
The bulk of legal expenses paid to the law firm of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane LLP includes $84,249 for nearly 479 billable hours and an additional $5,750 in unbilled fees and expenses.
All of that was related to the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority. "The mayor has decided with your support to have its city solicitor defend the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority," Mangiaratti told the council. "All of it has involved a great deal of money. "The alternative," he added, "would be to allow the ARA to go into a receivership and terminate all of the initiatives."
The largest chunk of ARA-related legal expenses — $48, 521 — involves a case brought against the city by former ARA Director Michael Milanoski, who was laid off by the authority. Milanoski has argued that the reason for the layoff was not due to lack of funds but because of political pretext, according to Mangiaratti.
"We tried to dispose of that case saying there is no money," Mangiaratti told the councilors. The hearing officer Janice Silverman upheld the ARA's position of dismissing Milanoski and Meg Ross (the then ARA 's CFO) because of lack of funds.
Silverman's decision, however, was appealed and brought before the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission and is still currently in process until the Commission makes a decision.
"That is all behind us and we are cautiously optimistic that we will prevail."
After the meeting, Mangiaratti said that there was an offer to settle early in the litigation process, but that both parties were too far apart from an agreement. "If Mr. Milanoski is successful in his appeal, he'll be reinstated and will receive back pay,"Mangiaratti said.
Milanoski and Ross (also named in the case) together would receive back pay of their salaries approximatley ($109,000 and $77,000).
"As I said to the councilors, I'm cautiously optimistic," Mangiaratti said.
A total of $45,305 was paid for miscellaneous legal services including $8,459 in billable hours and expenses for a solar energy request for proposal and a $3,757 price tag for the Tappan House Project.
Councilor Duff White noted the 22 hours that were billed to the city for the Tappan House. "That’s a deal that involves many moving peaces," Mangiaratti said. "You have the owner of the Tappan House, a moving company, owner of the land to which it will be moved, public utilities affected by the move." "That's $4,000 for a free house," White said. "I wanted to make the public aware. The devil is in the details."
Summary of most expensive legal services provided to Attleboro (categorized by city departments).City Dept. Hours Amount Expenses Total ARA 478 $80,971 $3,277 $84,248 MISC. 219 $36,269 $9,035 $45,304 DPW 65 $9,022 $9,822 $18,904 Conservation 94 $14,926 $967 $15,893 Collector 105 $14,611 $553 $15,164