Former City Attorneys File Discrimination Claims
City will spend up $40,000 for outside counsel and could face future settlements.
Remember when a newly-hired assistant city attorney was terminated less than a week after she appeared on a Russian state-controlled television network to defend Vladimir Putin? How about a newly-hired assistant attorney who announced his resignation via an open letter that accused City Attorney Tearman Spencer of issuing a politically-motivated, retaliatory directive?
Because it has an inherent conflict of interest, the City Attorney’s Office is recommending the city hire MWH Law Group for up to $20,000 on each case.
Deputy City Attorney Robin A. Pederson told the Judiciary & Legislation Committee Monday that the city is receiving a favorable hourly rate. It will pay $250 per hour for a partner, $230 for an associate and $125 for a paralegal, all billed in six-minute increments. Emery Harlan is the named partner in the proposed contract.
Committee members expressed disbelief, then voted for the agreements.
“That speaks volumes about the office,” said Alderman Michael Murphy.
But their colleague, Robert Bauman, said this might only be the beginning of the process.
“I think we will have this discussion in earnest when we begin debating whether to settle these claims,” said Bauman, a licensed attorney.
In addition to criticizing his personnel management, council members have criticized Spencer for hiring too many outside attorneys and offering to settle too often. The DeMaster and Thomas cases may ultimately exemplify all three problems.
But as Bauman cautioned his colleagues, anyone can sue at any time about anything. He brought up DeMaster’s claim, which Pederson said was about racial discrimination and retaliation. The alderman noted she was a white female.
The full council will consider both proposals on Nov. 22.
The city is already spending to defend itself against a discrimination claim involving a former assistant city attorney, Naomi Gehling. Thomas was hired to take over Gehling’s role after she resigned for a new job in a different city department. He later accused Spencer of asking for a retaliatory memo against Gehling, with whom Thomas never worked.
In May, the council approved spending up to $20,000 to defend the city on that claim. An open file in the city legislative system would increase the limit to $40,000. The judiciary committee held the increase in July.
- How Will Council Handle Scathing Report on City Attorney? - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 14th, 2023
- City Attorney Spencer Faces Inspector’s Call For Ouster, Likely Violation Of Discrimination Law - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 9th, 2023
- City Hall: Another Former Assistant City Attorney Files Discrimination Claim - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 20th, 2023
- City Hall: Former City Attorneys File Discrimination Claims - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 14th, 2022
- City Hall: City Faces $9.5 Million In Legal Claims - Jeramey Jannene - May 4th, 2022
- City Hall: DNS Could Drop City Attorney, Hire Its Own - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 12th, 2022
- City Hall: City Attorney Halts Plan To Sue Reckless Drivers - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2022
- City Hall: Spencer Faces Sex Discrimination Claim - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 22nd, 2022
- City Hall: More Turnover In City Attorney’s Office - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 9th, 2022
- City Hall: Putin-Backing Assistant City Attorney Fired - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 28th, 2022
Read more about Turmoil at the City Attorney's Office here