Fall River City Councilors to Review Legal Work Fees
FALL RIVER – It’s been just over four months since City Council voted to hire its own law firm and, in light of some possible billing discrepancies from the Boston-based KP Act, the vice-chair of the council municipal Pam Laliberte asks for a consideration at the next regular meeting of the municipal council.
The Herald News submitted an open case request for all updated KP Law bills early last week before two new pairs of KP Law bills were presented to city council.
Laliberte, along with City Council Chairman Cliff Ponte, is responsible for approving requests for legal services from councilors and overseeing the approval of payments, according to a policy created by City Council.
Mayor Paul Coogan included a legal budget of $ 40,000 in city council’s 2020 budget, the first time the legislative branch of city government has had the ability to represent itself, although the concept has been debated for years.
Before council approved payment of the two bills totaling $ 5,172 last week, Laliberte said she noticed errors and city council voted to remove KP Law’s legal bills, which she said did not have not yet reviewed.
One of the seemingly illegitimate charges of $ 962 was the legal analysis the firm said it performed to “analyze the facts and legal issues regarding: the scope of the Superintendent’s powers with respect to personal and medical information concerning : the student ”
Laliberte admitted to having a conversation with KP Law after an incident involving one of his children who had a medical episode in May while at school. Superintendent Matt Malone had apparently sent an email to members of the school committee with information regarding the youth’s episode and identified the student as Laliberte’s child, in violation of federal HIPPA regulations.
The vice-president of the city council said that since she had been appointed city councilor in Malone’s email, she contacted KP Law who advised her as it was a private matter, she should seek further legal advice.
“The reason I reached out is because I was made a city councilor and his defense was because I was a city councilor,” Laliberte said. “She said no, I needed a personal lawyer and I sent her what I was talking about.”
Part of the work the law firm claims to have done was drafting a memorandum to “city council” (presumably meaning city council), regarding the superintendent’s authority with respect to student information.
“That never happened,” Laliberte said, adding that she had written one to the school committee, which has yet to respond to her complaint, and to her fellow city councilors.
Another item was a $ 55 charge for a phone call to Fall River Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza on private details.
“I never spoke to KP Law,” Cardoza said.
Laliberte said on Friday she spoke to KP Law’s general counsel Lauren F. Goldberg, who is the firm’s senior counsel for city council.
Goldberg acknowledged the errors and said the corrected invoices had already been prepared and the invoices received by the clerk’s office should not have been submitted to the council, Laliberte said.
Laliberte said she was asking KP Law to submit corrected invoices and any unpaid charges made during that fiscal year by June 30.
Another billing error that has since been corrected is work that should be billed to the town lawyer, such as an issue involving Comcast, which was included on the town council bill.
This is not the first time that KP Law represents the city council.
Goldberg was the lawyer in the city council’s controversial – and unsuccessful – case against besieged former mayor Jasiel Correia II in September 2019 to oust him after his second indictment of public corruption.
The council’s efforts to remove Correia from office cost the city $ 77,000 for its representation by Goldberg and to cover the costs of Correia’s legal team and paid for by the company’s legal counsel department.
KP Law received $ 20,800 for his representation on city council.
The open case request showed two additional invoices from KP Law for the Correia case.
In two invoices (one for $ 480 and another for $ 360 for a total of $ 860) were identified by the law firm as charges for 2.5 hours of research on the next steps of the council regarding the trial of 2019.
Last January, at a Zoom City Council meeting and after a little over 10 minutes of presenting Goldberg, the City Council voted in favor of a non-commonplace.
According to city clerk Alison Bouchard, who prepared the response to the open files, the $ 360 bill was paid by the legal department and the $ 480 came from the city council budget, although KP Law did not enter into a contract. with the board at the time of the January meeting.
In a text message sent last Saturday, Laliberte said she passed the two Correia-related invoices to City Council Chairman Cliff Ponte and said she was still waiting for the corrected invoices.
KP Law was one of two firms to bid on the city council contract with a $ 275 per hour deal for legal services. Local lawyer Aruthur Frank’s bid was $ 175 an hour.
Jo C. Goode can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!