(MITCHELL) - The city of Mitchell's Board of Public Works and Safety unanimously agreed to pay attorney Chris Burton $6,347.50 in fees for preparing a declaratory judgment in the long-debated case of Councilman Everett Ferrel and whether or not he was legally serving as a councilman after it was found out that his property was not located inside the city limits.
Krystal Shetler of the Times-Mail reports that the vote did not happen without an objection from Ron Pridemore, a Mitchell man who told the three-member board, which includes Ferrel, Mayor Gary Pruett and Terry Slone, that taxpayers should not be on the hook for paying the bill.
Slone first questioned the bill when it was brought before the board May 31, saying he'd like to see an itemized invoice of where and how Burton spent his time preparing for the court case. That invoice was presented to the city and given to the board of works Monday night.
Slone said he spoke to city attorney Byron Steele about the situation, and Steele informed Slone that Burton went above and beyond in preparing for the case and the bill reflected that work.
Pridemore then asked if he could speak to the board on the matter, and Pruett declined his request.
A short exchange ensued with Pridemore saying, "You're wrong in this Gary. You've violated the city."
Over his objection, the board agreed to pay the bill, but then Slone turned and asked Pridemore what his objection was to the matter.
After a brief exchange over whether he could speak or not and his opinion on the matter, Pridemore stated, "I don't believe we owe him anything. He owes us."
Slone went on to explain why he voted in favor of paying the bill, saying the board of works hired Burton to do a job, without setting any stipulations on the price or work, and now it must pay the fee.
He added that he didn't like paying Burton just to have a judge tell the city it had to pay Ferrel back wages.
Slone said he didn't like it and it was a waste of $6,000, but said it was the city's fault because they didn't set down rules in advance when they hired Burton.
In April, Lawrence Circuit Judge Andrea McCord signed an "order for declaratory judgment" that stated Ferrel was owed $12,250 by the city of Mitchell in back wages during his service as a legal member of the council. The city paid Ferrel $9,610.74, after taxes, on April 18.
In the bill submitted to the city May 15, Burton charged the city $6,187.50 for 41.25 hours of legal services at $150 an hour. On top of that, was $137 for the filing fee and $23 for binders purchased to hold paperwork for a total of $6,347.50.
Also, in coming up with the declaratory judgment, the city paid a mediation fee of $577.50 to a mediator on April 12 who worked with the city (represented by Pruett and Burton) and Ferrel to come to an agreement. The mediation agreement is private.
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