Brookhaven City Attorney Chris Balch was hired by the city council at its Tuesday meeting and will be paid a flat $20,000 monthly retainer fee as part of a new agreement.
The city’s previous attorney, Tom Kurrie, who resigned last year amidst claims he covered up a sexual harassment allegation against former mayor J. Max Davis, had an open-ended agreement with the city.
The new engagement letter outlining services to be rendered by Balch should save the city money as well as offer more transparency, Balch explained.
“This engagement letter seeks to provide a more consistent level of billing so as not to shock the council each month for the hourly billing that is typically required,” Balch said.
“The terms are essentially the same [as previous agreement with past city attorney] but the goal is try to create a level and consistent and transparent means for paying for legal services,” he said.
Balch will be also be paid a $165 hourly fee for work in which he provides direct representation for the city, such as litigation, appearances before the Zoning Board of Appeals and appearances before the Alcohol License Review board. The city will also pay a $90 hourly paralegal fee for this work.
“The monthly retainer is very inclusive and this is a very significant reduction from our prior legal counsel,” said District 1 Councilwoman Linley Jones.
Kurrie was paid a $12,500 monthly retainer but also billed hourly for many items. A June 30 bill from his firm, Coleman Talley, to the city shows the $12,500 retainer due as well as 225.55 billable hours totaling $33,428.78, and a $67.50 fee for expenses. The total legal bill to the city for June was $33,496.25, according to city documents.
City documents show Kurrie was paid more than $660,000 for his work from January 2014 to June 2015.