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Riverdale diverts $95,000 for legal fees

By Greg Gelpi

The Riverdale City Council transferred $95,000 from its contingency fund to its fund for legal fees.

The city was in danger of spending all of the money it had budgeted for legal fees before the end of the fiscal year.

"The attorney fees are exorbitant, and I hope the council takes the appropriate action," Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham said.

The City Council hired the legal services of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer, & Murphy to serve as the city attorney for Riverdale in January. The firm had been working under an oral agreement. The law firm charges Riverdale $300 an hour for its legal counseling.

The city "confirmed" its commitment to use Powell, Goldstein, Frazer, & Murphy, Graham said.

Although the city budgeted $75,000 for legal fees for the year, the city had already paid $25,945 for 109 hours of work as of April 26.

The city reviewed its budget Tuesday night. The city is expected to collect $11 million for this fiscal year and spend $9.9 million. The city began the fiscal year with $1.2 million in its contingency fund, which is money carried over from last fiscal year.

"What we see now is better than what we saw March 31, but it's not anything we did," City Manager Sylvester Murray said.

Councilman Rick Scoggins voted against hiring the law firm to serve as city attorney, adding that the cost was more than the previous city attorney.

"I don't think the city can afford that type of expenditure on attorney fees," Scoggins said at the time.

When the city hired Powell, Goldstein, Frazer, & Murphy, Councilman Kenny Ruffin said the legal expenses would soon drop. Many of the fees were one-time fees, incurred mainly because the law firm was performing some of the duties of city manager, prior to Murray being named to that position.