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.