The City of Saline will pay substantially higher rates for legal counsel.
At Monday’s meeting Saline City Council voted 5-2 to continue using Dickinson Wright for general municipal attorney services and Clark Hill for labor services.
Councillors Jim Roth and Janet Dillon voted against the contracts.
Councillors David Rhoads and Dean Girbach both expressed some displeasure with the higher rates, but said the service was worth the cost.
During public comment, city resident Paul Borger said he thought the proposed increases should be concerning to the city.
Dickinson Wright helps the city with ordinances, represents the city in lawsuits and provides general counsel to the city. It also manages prosecution of misdemeanors. The company proposed increasing its annual retainer from $106,980 to $120,000. The threshold at which the attorney charges extra was also lowered from 40 to 25 hours and the hourly rate increased from $185 to $200.
It’s a three-year deal with an automatic increase in year three.
Clark Hill, which represents the city in labor matters, is increasing its annual retainer from $18,000 to $20,400. Currently, the company charges an hourly rate of $185 on items exceeding 40 hours. That hourly rate is now $210 and it kicks in on the 26th hour.
In 2013, the city paid $39,183 to city attorney Allan Grossman and $76,000 to Clark Hill for a total of $116,000. That number increased to $129,000 in 2014 and $173,000 in 2015. (These numbers do not include the DPW roof lawsuit.)
Counciillor Jim Roth said he wasn’t happy with the demands of the law firms.
“They’ve got us between a rock and a hard place and they’re giving us the squeeze,” Roth said.
Rhoads and Girbach acknowledged the higher cost. Rhoads moved to approve the new contracts even though he wasn’t pleased with the rate hike.
“I do believe the value we receive and the savings exceed the cost of our contract,” Rhoads said. “The cost of bringing in a new firm and getting people up to speed could be several tens of thousands of dollars. I do wish the cost was somewhat lower.”
“We are receiving benefits. The Monroe Street cleanup alone would have not occurred without the law firm’s work and the letters to Congress,” Girbach said. “I don’t disagree that we should put these out for bid every so often, but there are a lot of major things I want to see completed and we have several legal issues still ongoing. We have to defend the city. This increase is the cost of doing business and at least we’ve gotten a benefit out it.”