Rhinelander Legal Bills Top $77,000 For July And August

Sep 10, 2019

Credit Starjournalnow.com

Some advice from the city's legal team led to a postponement of payment of three bills for which the legal team is owed. There also could be a problem as to where the city gets the money to pay the bills.

After the former city attorney contract was not renewed, the city contracted with a law firm they had used for projects over the years: Von Briesen, to provide services until a new city attorney is hired.

The city attorney's contract ended in May.

The bill has amounted to near $77,000 for June and July. One check of near $33,000 and another payment of $2,500 were set to go out, with a third payment of more than $42,000 up for approval Monday night.

A person familiar with the process in past years says the city -- because of state-mandated expenditure limits -- is limited to spending only what they passed for the 2019 budget. The person said the only way they could have used more money is if they tapped the contingency fund. The contingency fund for 2019 is zero, so the source says only legal way to pay the bills is to transfer money from current department budgets to pay the legal fees.

Attorney Hector de la Mora told the council they couldn't pay the bills out the budget line item as legally, no more money was in there and they needed to post the agenda item and transfer money...

"Your budget for legal expenditures for this year may not be adequate to cover the most current invoice from our firm. Under Wisconsin state statutes you should not proceed with this item until you consider a budget amendment, so I think you should table this matter..."

The former city attorney's hourly fee was $140 per hour, roughly half of what is being billed by the current firm.