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Arnold Councilman Questions City Attorney's Time

Arnold City Attorney Bob Sweeney attended the Creve Coeur red-light camera case to prepare for the class-action lawsuit against Missouri cities using red-light cameras.

Arnold Ward 1 Councilman Doris Borgelt criticized City Attorney Bob Sweeney’s billing and legal strategies in an email to constituents sent in December.

Specifically, Borgelt said Arnold tax payers were paying for Sweeney to attend Missouri Court of Appeals case regarding the use of American Traffic Solutions’ red-light traffic cameras in the City of Creve Coeur.

St. Louis County resident Mary Nottebrok appealed a court decision regarding Creve Coeur’s red-light policy to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Riverfront Times reported. The case began Oct. 5, 2011. Nottebrok’s attorney argued to the appellate court that the red-light cameras violated a person’s right to due process.

“We are paying for our attorney to attend and sit in the audience on cases that have nothing to do with the City of Arnold,” Borgelt wrote in her email.

In the email, Borgelt also said that Sweeney billed his presence at the appelate court case as attending a legal conference.

“What a way to boost those billable hours,” she wrote.

Sweeney said in an interview with Arnold Patch that the Creve Coeur court case can affect a separate class-action lawsuit against the City of Arnold and other Missouri cities that use red-light cameras.

Simon Law Firm, a St. Louis-based group, filed the legal complaint against Arnold, Creve Coeur, Ellisville, Florissant and Kansas City in August 2011.

“It’s important to know the legal arguments, tactics and strategies used in the Creve Coeur case, because they can ruin another attorney’s defense in a separate but similar case,” Sweeney said.

Instead of waiting for the appellate court’s decision, asking and billing for copies of attorney files, researching and studying the issues and forming a new strategy, Sweeney said, the numerous city attorneys decided to take a proactive attitude.

City Administrator Matt Unrein said he agreed to Sweeney's strategy and gave the needed approval.

In a conference call, city attorneys from Kansas City, Creve Coeur, Ellisville and Florissant agreed to attend the appellate case, listen to arguments, debrief at another location and then discuss their strategy for their class-action court case, Sweeney said.

"The work and the meeting were not done to help Creve Coeur, but to assist us in the preparation of the (class-action) matter," Sweeney said.

The team of attorneys saves Arnold taxpayers’ money because eight to 10 minds are generating tactics for the upcoming lawsuit but Arnold is paying for only one attorney, Sweeney said.

He also said that the councilman likely misread his itemized monthly bill sent to the City of Arnold.

“I live in a glass house. Everything I do as an attorney is transparent,” Sweeney said.

A copy of Sweeney’s bill to Arnold indicated no billing for mileage and travel time to Creve Coeur and the related meeting.

Doris Borgelt January 11, 2012 at 07:40 AM
The Nottebrok case was no part of the class action suit and the class action suits make no reference to an argument of due process. Jane Dueker is the attorney for American Traffic Solutions, she is the lead attorney on every one of the class action cases, she should be more than happy to "share" strategy and information with each of the client cities she is representing. Mr. Sweeney's house hasn't been quite as transparent as it should be to the public over the last 10 years along with that of the city. Sunshine is the best disenfectant, we need more of it.
Bill Moritz January 13, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I have a suggestion to Doris though I know going in that she will not consider it. Avoid the former councilman Matt Hay’s specialty of ambushes in the city council meetings. If you have a question, ask it of the person in advance and tell that person you will be asking the question in open council meeting. Expect an answer. To ambush public servants in an attempt to surprise them or not permit them a fair opportunity to answer is doing you, them and the city a disservice.
Bill Moritz January 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Doris Borgelt is going to do what she is going to do. This story in the Patch reports that she sent emails stating how Attorney Bob Sweeney is billing Arnold improperly. She criticizes Sweeney’s attendance at the case which was decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals where M Nottebrok filed suit against the City of Creve Coeur. Nottebrok lost the appeal and both the points brought up in the appeal were denied. Both these points are entirely similar to points in the class action suit brought against Arnold by Jeff Brunner and Jerel Poor’s wife, Kimberly Moore. Doris is absolutely correct when she states that the Nottebrok case is no part of the class action case. She is absolutely incorrect to imply that the cases are not connected. Similar suits are brought against Creve Coeur, Kansas City, Ellisville and Florissant. Attorneys representing these cities are working together to defend against the suits and save overall costs. Why would they not attend a session in a case that likely has binding precedent over the case brought against their own cities, except KC, which is outside the MO Eastern District? The lawyers are going to pay attention to the rulings and certainly use them.
Doris Borgelt January 14, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I have a suggestion for Mr. Moritz! You worry about what you are doing and I will worry about what I am doing! It is my job as a council representative to viewt all aspects of our city government and question those things I find to be wasteful. The public needs to know how decisions are made. Why would a simple question about attorney billing be considered an ambush? It was first asked via email dated 11/30/2011 after I received a copy of Mr. Sweeney's CONFIDENTIAL bill. As a councilperson, we do not receive the bill unless you ask. I think that bill should be included in our packet along with payroll and general warrants(what bills we pay) and should be published on line for all to see! I cannot condone paying an attorney to sit in the audience of a case in Creve Coeur, in which the city is NOT involved. If he wants to do research on his own dime and own time, fine, but Arnold citizens should not be charged and it be referred to as a conference. I don't know how anyone can contend one argument of due process is the same as the many arguments other than due process presented in the class action suit. Jane Dueker is the attorney for American Traffic Solutions and will be the one arguing the case, I doubt Mr. Sweeney's rump leaves the chair, except for recess, maybe! I cannot condone paying him to be an onlooker. I will gladly send an electronic copy of the lawsuit to anyone who wants to see it. Then what is being argued, will be out in the open for all to see.
Doris Borgelt January 14, 2012 at 02:39 PM
By the way, I didn't mis read anything!
Bill Moritz January 14, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I believe the case was in the Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis as that is where the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District is housed. The city attorneys in attendance are paying attention as I mentioned before. The decision in the Nottebrok case will almost certainly be used in the Arnold case as it was precedent setting. I am perfectly satisfied with Mr Sweeney attending. I hope that you do link a copy of the amended petition and show that Moore was added as a plaintiff. The petition is pretty amusing in that instead of making an argument, the attorneys more likely seem to be making closing arguments. Maybe you can also explain why it is reported that this guy just happens to have red light camera tickets in each of the cities being sued. Pretty unusual behavior don't you think?
Doris Borgelt January 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
So did Mr. Moritz think better of his response that started out with "I believe the case was in the Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis as that is where the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District …" and remove it? Imagine that :)
Bill Moritz January 15, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I did not remove it, I edited it as I had a word misspelled. I fixed that and put it back up. Now it seems to have been removed by the Patch.
Bill Moritz January 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I thought the case that Bob Sweeney attended was probably in the Federal courthouse downtown. I also asked if you might know why, as it was reported to me, the guy involved in the suit has red light camera tickets in the St. Louis area cities. Don't you think that pretty strange behavior?
Bill Moritz January 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I also encouraged you to go ahead and post the 70 pages of that amended suit. The amendment is where plaintiff Moore was added to the petition. It is funny to read and if read aloud would probably sound more like a closing argument in a TV courtroom than a complaint. If my entire comment was edited, I broke it up to see which part may have been objectionable.
Michael de los Reyes January 15, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Unfortunately, we haven't deleted anything. I'll ask our tech team to check the systems.
F. Wegge January 15, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Dear Councilwoman Borgelt: Why are you participating in this discussion? It is demeaning and inappropriate for an elected official. Zip it!
Doris Borgelt January 15, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Dear F. Wegge, What is demeaning and inappropriate is someone trying to portray themselves as a currently sitting judge. I hope the real F. Wegge consults with administrators of this site and deals with you accordingly.
Michael de los Reyes January 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney F. Wegge verified that he did not write the comments posted earlier. I have removed the comments.
Peter Van Leunen February 01, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Perhaps Doris Borgelt would like to explain what she thinks the duties of the City Attorney are and to whom those duties are owed? Why would the City Counselor make his work transparent to the public? Why would he lay out his bill for those suing The City of Arnold to see? Mr. Sweeney represents the City, not its people. I think the good people of Arnold need to rethink someone's job here.
Matt Hay February 01, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Except for the fact that the "the City" is "its people" as municipalities derive under the 10th Amendment, their existence from the State, and from the People collectively. This fact is too often forgotten by many of those who act more as dictators, than representatives. While the City Attorney is not contracted to be an attorney for the citizens individually, he is contracted to represent the Council, and provide input and legal advice on matters before them, ultimately acting in a way which he/she feels is in the best interests of the Citizens of the City, which should be the ultimate goal of every action of the Council. Therefore, in a round about way, the citizens have indeed contracted him, via their representatives, to advise on legal matters. His role is not supposed to be to bury the dirty laundry, it is to advise against the soiling of said linens at the onset. That said, he is also bound by the Missouri Open Records Statutes, and must therefore be transparent to the public. As for your statement about laying out his bills for those filing lawsuits to see, not only are they required to be disclosed under Sunshine, but there is also discovery in those lawsuits to which you are referring, which is much more powerful than complying under Sunshine, which due to the inaction of the Attorney General's Office statewide on such issues, is basically voluntarily. Court Orders for discovery by those filing suits against the City and Council, not so much.
Peter Van Leunen February 01, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Meh...flapdoodlry at its best. City Attorneys do not post their bills online, because they owe their clients (City Councils and its various boards and commissions) a duty of confidentiality. I guess if the City Council wanted to post the legal bills online, then that would be their privilege to waive, if they can all agree on it. So, you're wrong. HE can't do it. And if his bills were requested in a request for production, well, that's an easy objection to argue.
Doris Borgelt February 01, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Mr. Van Leunen, Mr. Sweeney's bill should be included in the packet I receive as a council representative, I should not have to make a special request. If there is sensitive information on that bill, it should be as minimally redacted as possible, then the dates, hours billed and amount should be available along with the income, general and payroll warrants on line for all of the public to see. The more eyes that view those figures, the less chance of a mistake going by unnoticed or excessive amounts passing without question. Like I said at the very beginning, sunshine is the best disenfectant. I not only have a right, but also a responsibility to question anything that may appear questionable.

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