Red Bank expenses for city attorney mount

Red Bank expenses for city attorney mount

February 23rd, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

LEGAL EXPENSES

April 30 - Several residents file a $10 million lawsuit against Red Bank for its three sets of traffic cameras. City argues that red-light offenders "are not entitled to a trial by jury, a presumption of innocence, or a heightened burden of proof." A judge dismisses the case in September.

Stulce earnings: $14,878.53

July 2 - Ousted police chief Larry Sneed files a $1.5 million suit against the city for retaliatory discharge and political conspiracy. City responds a month later, saying Sneed's contract did not require a reason for firing. Lawsuit is pending.

Stulce earnings: $6,077.86

Aug. 4 - Police Officer Bradley Hanon sues the city for "defamation, humiliation and mental anguish" after he said he exposed several incidents of alleged improper police work. Two of the officials he sues call the $1.5 million lawsuit "frivolous." Set for trial Dec. 12.

Stulce earnings:: $2,285.30

Aug. 16 - John Anthony Murray sues for "mental anguish" damages, alleging that a Red Bank officer and a Hamilton County sheriff's deputy meddled with records to justify his DUI arrest. The city has not officially responded to the $1.5 million suit. Set for trial Nov. 14.

Stulce earnings: $2,566.05

Aug. 23 - Red Bank police Cpl. Rebecca Chauncey sues for an unpaid suspension her attorney dubbed "retaliatory" after she tried to stop Murray's arrest. Set for trial Dec. 12.

Stulce earnings: $6,876.74

Total to date: $32,684.48

Source: Red Bank

As he defended the city against five lawsuits, Red Bank City Attorney Arnold Stulce Jr. netted about $32,000 in taxpayer funds between last May and January, exceeding levels he normally reaches in an entire fiscal year.

"I don't think about it in those terms," he said Friday.

Red Bank's attorney since 1980, Stulce characterized the last few months as "very out of the ordinary." The city faced a $10 million class-action lawsuit against the city's traffic cameras, and three ex-police employees separately sued the city for $1.5 million each. A DUI suspect sued for the same amount.

Only the traffic camera lawsuit has been resolved. Hamilton County Chancery Court Judge Frank Brown dismissed it in September. The others are pending.

During fiscal year 2008-09, Red Bank paid Stulce $27,448, city records show.

Stulce charges Red Bank a $700 monthly retainer and $160 per hour for any other legal correspondence, including thousands of dollars for e-mails and phone calls to the city manager, city commissioners and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, invoices show.

"I'm not commenting on what I bill the client for," Stulce said.

One resident did.

"We pay for phone calls to you [the newspaper]?" Betty Nickerson said. "That's going too far and getting a little too much out of our pockets."

Mayor Monty Millard said he has "complete trust in Arnie."

"He's always been fair, honest and very knowledgeable," said Millard, who is named in one of the lawsuits. "[The cost] comes unfortunately with the territory."

Stulce has billed the city for conversations with Millard's private attorney, Jennifer Lawrence, according to an invoice.

Stulce's fees are separate from $46,000 the city budgeted this year for legal insurance and representation from the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool, which insures about 490 other municipalities, housing authorities and utility companies.

Attorneys from the pool are handling much of the litigation, Stulce said.

In a recent interview, Dawn Crawford, president of the insurance pool, said Red Bank's annual premiums could increase depending on "how much expenditure goes up for these five cases."

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