Friday, March 1, 2013

Sun Valley approves more legal fees

Special attorney payments climb from $35K to $45K

Express Staff Writer

Despite expressing a desire to dam the torrent of cash flowing from the city of Sun Valley over the past several months, the City Council has reluctantly agreed to spend another $10,000 on legal fees.

Attorney Kirtlan Naylor of Boise-based law firm Naylor & Hales is the city’s counsel in two lawsuits—one pending and one recently closed—in 5th District Court. The council voted 3-0 during a special meeting Monday to allow Naylor to increase a $35,000 contract to $45,000.

Councilman Nils Ribi abstained from the vote because he is involved in one of the suits. According to figures supplied by Ribi at a meeting on Feb. 7, Naylor had then already exceeded the contract by $6,100.

The first of the two suits involves a public records request filed in August by Jim Donoval, husband and former attorney of former City Administrator Sharon Hammer. In a ruling filed Feb. 14, Judge Jonathan Brody closed that case in the city’s favor, saying the city had done all that could reasonably be expected of it in responding to several public records requests submitted by Donoval. According to Ribi, Naylor had initially requested $15,000 to defend the city in that suit, but by Feb. 7 had racked up fees of $19,200 and in the amended contract is requesting $20,000.

The second suit is a pending defamation suit filed in December 2011 by Ribi and his wife, Patricia Ribi, against Donoval. The city became involved when Donoval issued subpoenas against it to produce documents. In June, Brody ruled in Donoval’s favor on allegations by Nils Ribi that Donoval had defamed him in written communications related to another, now closed, lawsuit between Hammer and the city. However, Brody has yet to rule on emotional distress complaints filed by Patricia Ribi against Donoval.

According to Nils Ribi, Naylor had requested $15,000 for that suit and has only spent $8,000. However, Ribi said, Naylor had also requested $12,000 to defend the city against Donoval’s subpoenas, but by Feb. 7 said his costs had reached $13,900 for the subpoena defense. In the amended contract, Naylor requests $17,000 for the subpoena defense.

In an interview Feb. 7, Briscoe said the increased fees are a result of Naylor’s having to file responses to numerous filings by Donoval in the first and third suits. He said Naylor, who charges the city $135 per hour, is giving the city about a 50 percent discount.

City Attorney Adam King, who provides legal advice at council meetings but does not litigate for the city, said at the Feb. 7 meeting that switching attorneys at this point would be prohibitively expensive because the new attorney would charge the city to get up to speed on the suits.

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