Westfield council member requests more info following “outrageous” attorney fees on claims docket

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The approval of claims is typically one of the first items on council agendas, and at the March 8 Westfield City Council meeting, it sparked discussion among council members.

Jake Gilbert

Council member Jake Gilbert voiced concern about the city owing approximately $94,000 to the law firm of Webster and Garino for its February and March services, and more than $45,000 to Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors for its services from November 2020 through January.

“We get a general invoice of attorney fees, which doesn’t really help much because the same amount is on the docket. I would like to see a breakdown of these hours certainly going forward in the future,” Gilbert said. “When we were presented with $45,000 to Baker Tilly, $45,900 to Webster and Garino, $48,300 to Webster and Garino, and I’m not sure what we have budgeted out for a retainer, but then to see these shocking amounts in such a short period of time, it’s just pretty outrageous. It would help for clarity if we knew a little more of what went into this for our own oversight and wisdom going forward.

“I’m not sure if anyone is able to give a more detailed explanation than, ‘Here’s an invoice, this is what you owe us, pay us.’”

Will Webster, partner and founder of Webster and Garino, said he’s happy to work with the council to provide it with additional information as long as it doesn’t cause issues with pending litigations. Webster and Garino is the firm representing Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard in an ongoing lawsuit that was filed by Westfield Mayor Andy Cook.

“That would be beneficial going forward because right now all we know is, today is March 8 and we owe your firm $94,000, so yes, we would like to see as much information as possible,” Gilbert said.

The claims docket details hundreds of various payments, and Gilbert asked if it is possible to approve all other items on the claims docket except for the attorney fees.

“Even if I disagree about the money, we will live up to our responsibility as a city and pay what we owe, but I certainly would like to have more information about these attorney fees,” he said.

Gilbert was joined by council members Scott Frei and Troy Patton in voting against accepting the claims docket. Council member Joe Edwards said he would vote “yes” this time, but not necessarily in the future.
“If it comes this way again, I think I’ll start dragging my feet,” Edwards said.

The motion to approve the claims docket passed by a 4-3 vote. Council members Edwards, Mike Johns, Cindy Spoljaric and Scott Willis voted “yes.”

For more or to view the entire claims docket, visit westfield.in.gov.   


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