The legal fight between Dunwoody and DeKalb County over a disputed $7 million park-bond allocation apparently is not going to come cheaply, even though the city’s legal fees will be discounted.
Dunwoody has a contract with a team of lawyers from Schiff Harden that will be led by Leah Ward Sears, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.
The city will pay $480 per billable hour for Sears, according to documents released by the city in response to a public records request from the Reporter Newspapers.
Three other lawyers that are expected to work on the case will charge anywhere from $235 to $410 an hour. Legal assistants will cost $147 an hour.
Sears is dropping 20 percent from her standard fee. The other rates are also discounted, according to the contract.
“We understand that Dunwoody as a municipality must be prudent with taxpayer funds; therefore, we have discounted our rates to reflect such understanding,” states the contract, which is addressed to City Attorney Brian Anderson.
Dunwoody and DeKalb County have been in stalemate over how much money is due the city for Brook Run Park. State legislation outlines that Dunwoody is owed voter-approved bond proceeds that DeKalb planned to spend on the park, minus what has already been spent there.
Richard Stogner, chief operating officer of the county, said that nothing in the language passed by voters ever mentions anything is allocated to Brook Run. “It doesn’t say anything about it in the ordinance,” Stogner said.
The lawsuit says city officials sent an unanswered letter demanding the funds to DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in the fall.
“The die was cast when they ignored our demand letter,” Anderson said.
A spokeswoman for Ellis said he had not seen the lawsuit as of Dec. 29 and had no comment on it.
According to city officials, $11.5 million was allocated to Brook Run Park from a $96 million bond issue approved by voters in 2005.
About $4.5 million of that has been spent on improvements, including a new skate park and playground. City officials have said evidence the county included Brook Run Park in the bond allocation is apparent because of those improvements.
Ellis, other DeKalb executives and the members of the Board of Commissioners are listed as defendants in the suit. The city of Dunwoody and city residents Carl Franklin, Don Converse and Renata Harod are named as plaintiffs.
The lawsuit seeks judgment of the funds and legal fees.