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Morrow pays lawyers almost $12,500

Second law firm never hired in public meeting

— The Morrow City Council is shelling out nearly $12,500 for legal fees to two law firms, although one of those firms was never legally hired by the city.

The council voted to spend $3,401.25 on legal services provided by The Balch Law Group, PC Tuesday — even though council members haven’t publicly voted to hire the law firm. City manager Jeff Eady told city council Balch’s invoice was for work the firm did when it “handled the last executive session questions for the council.”

Simultaneously, the council also voted to spend $9,091.02 on services provided by Henderson & Hundley, PC, which has provided Morrow with city attorney Laurel Henderson for years — until she tendered her resignation two weeks ago. That’s a total payment of 12,492.27.

The payment for services provided by The Balch Law Group seemingly contradicts a written statement councilwoman Jeanell Bridges provided to Clayton News Daily about an attorney from the law firm, Chris Balch, in an e-mail dated Nov. 16. Bridges, the mayor pro-tem for Morrow, was asked about Balch because he provided legal advice to the council on the legality of an executive session Nov. 13.

“Mr. Balch has not been retained,” Bridges said. “The council felt that it was in our best interest to seek another legal opinion to advise us on the matter at hand.”

Henderson complained in her resignation letter that the council had stopped consulting her on legal matters. In fact, she said she had “routinely been kept in the dark as to important legal issues while staff and some elected officials consulted outside counsel.”

She never specifically named The Balch Law Group as that outside counsel. During the Nov. 13 meeting, Henderson sat quietly in the back of the council’s meeting chambers while council members consulted Balch on the legality of an executive session held to deal with a grievance filed against Mayor Joseph J.B. Burke Nov. 5.

The grievance was filed following critical comments Burke made about Morrow Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin during a council meeting Oct. 23. The retaining of Balch was not publicly discussed or voted on by the council at meetings held Nov. 5 and Nov. 13. No other council meetings have been held since the incident, which prompted the grievance against the mayor.

Henderson said, in her resignation letter, she and the council agreed at the beginning of the year that “if outside council were warranted, I would be the chief contact for any such person.”

The letter indicates Henderson was not involved in the retaining of The Balch Law Group.

City Clerk Evyonne Browning told the council The Balch Law Group invoices stemmed from questions of whether the council violated the state's Open Meetings Act during the Nov. 5 executive session.

"This is from when we had the Balch law firm give an opinion on the executive session procedures," she said.

Burke said he was concerned that the council chose to use an outside law firm to handle the issue. "I just don't understand why we would have an outside law firm handle this, rather than use our city attorney," he said.

Comments

MorrowResident 2 years ago

They keep saying they did not break the Sunshine Laws, but they did. No matter how many times they claim that they did not, they did break the law. They consulted the other attorney because the city attorney would have told them they were breaking the law. They did not consult an attorney until AFTER they had broken then law. Then they have the nerve to say that it would have been the same amount of consultation fee if they had consulted the city attorney, lies and more lies. Check up on this crap people.

You have this Datar character stand up and say the News Daily wants to "sell papers", this guy never seems to fully understand anything. Anyone remember the half cocked comments he wrote when he ran for mayor, I do and he never gets the issue at hand. He said that there WERE minutes taken, but their own 3400.00 attorney said at the meeting that " he could not say what went on in the closed door meeting because there were NO MINUTES TAKEN". Now they may have re-created some by now after being caught, but they could not produce them that night, we all heard the 3400.00 attorney say this. Jeff Eady realized he could not bully the mayor and now is trying to work against him. Bad and expensive decisions this staff and council is guilty of making.

This all due to the mayor requiring people to be held accountable. The staff needs to be held accountable. That finance presentation each meeting is only what they want you to know. The mayor knows how to read a financial statement and he blows the whistle on some of this, it is time to muddy the waters and focus on the mayor "hurting feelings"

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OscarKnight 2 years ago

...MorrowResident : " News Daily wants to "sell papers"

.......The Clayton News Daily is the only voice that we have, they are also our Local News Organ, Our Bridge to Free Speech in this county, and I'm sick & tired of being fined for Traffic Violations in Morrow for not breaking any laws.

.....Let this try to fall on the deaf ears in Morrow !!!

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