East Ridge offers Adams settlement in legal bills lawsuit

East Ridge offers Adams settlement in legal bills lawsuit

March 26th, 2009 by Elizabeth Ryan in Local Regional News

The City of East Ridge offered a settlement Wednesday to Hamilton County Commissioner Curtis Adams in his lawsuit over city attorney John Anderson's legal bills.

The offer suggests a judge should decide which details of Mr. Anderson's legal billings are protected under attorney-client privilege, and which should be opened to the public.

"The City of East Ridge determined that it needed to obtain a judicial determination as to which documents are privileged to protect its interests," the offer states. "Documents which may be privileged will be submitted (privately) for further judicial determination."

Confidential information then could be redacted and copies made for Mr. Adams at his expense, according to the offer. No agreement has been reached.

Mr. Adams filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Chancery Court last week, demanding access to Mr. Anderson's bills and asking the court to inspect the records, determine what's privileged and make everything else known to the public.

The city has maintained that it is willing to share Mr. Anderson's bills with citizens, but that disclosing the details would violate "attorney client privilege."

Jack Benson Jr., attorney for Mr. Adams, said he still needed to examine the settlement offer in person, but he said the motion seemed to give his client what he wanted.

Mr. Adams said he was pleased with the prospect of letting a judge decide.

"If the judge says we can't see anything, that will be fine with me," he said. "But if the judge says the public has a right to see it all, we'll see it all."

East Ridge City Manager William Whitson said the city had not changed its position that the public should see all information it is privy to.

"We are going to redact items in the billing that we feel are protected attorney-client privilege, but the rest of the information would be there and they'd be welcome to have it," Mr. Whitson said.

He added that he looked forward to resolving the issue.

"The city felt like this whole thing was very extreme and there should be way to resolve it without all of this court (involvement)," he said.

Mr. Adams previously filed a similar petition for an itemized account of Mr. Anderson's legal bills to Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority.

"I went through the same thing for two months with WWTA ... and after we passed a resolution on the commission to take them to court they turned it over to us," he said. "There's nothing that should be hidden from them (citizens) because they are the taxpayers. They're like stockholders in a company. They have the right to see anything."