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City Attorney Documents Detail Costs

The city's interim attorney is owed more than $23,000, but his predecessor also has been charging the city this year. View documents here.

Snellville's interim city attorney isn't the only attorney that has racked up a number of fees in the past several months. However, there's at least one stark difference between the two stacks of bills.

Staurt Oberman, interim city attorney since mid-November 2011, has been fighting to get paid. Tony Powell, the previous city attorney, has not.

Although officials say both Oberman and Powell charged the city the same hourly rate of $150, several city council members have maintained that Oberman's fees are excessive.

According to information received through a Freedom of Information Act request, Oberman was owed a little more than $23,000 as of January 30. (See the documents attached.)

Nearly $19,000 are fees associated with administrative work, including:

  • Reviewing city codes, correspondence and other documents
  • Researching social media legal concerns
  • Revising contracts and ordinances
  • Attending city council meetings

Even after Oberman was appointed and began billing the city, Powell continued doing work for Snellville through at least January.

By January 30, Powell had billed the city for $16,851.45 for services rendered. Although a few charges are from the end of October, most are from November through January.

In fact, during the two weeks prior to Oberman's appointment, Powell did nearly $9,000 worth of work -- about twice as much as Oberman did in his first two weeks.

After Oberman was appointed, documents show that Powell did more than $7,000 in final work. Fees for recent months included:

  • Handling litigation involving the city of Snellville
  • Working on tax issues regarding the Wisteria Drive property
  • Conducting telephone calls with city staff and others
  • Resolving issues surrounding the hotel-motel tax

However, while Oberman fought with the city to pay him, Powell received timely payments for his work.

Documents show that the city of Snellville recently issued him a payment in the amount of $11,363.13 for work completed, leaving a balance going into February of just $5,488.32. (See attached documents.)

Over the course of 2011, Powell also received timely payments, pulling in more than $140,000 in fees and reimbursed expenses.

Although Powell is no longer the appointed city attorney, he's not going far. City council members recently decided they want to bring his firm back on to represent them. It is rare, but there are a number of cities that have two city attorneys.

Until the issue of Oberman's fees is worked out, however, citizens can expect to see it re-occur as an agenda item. An informal poll taken by Patch suggests that readers (60 percent) want the city to hold off on paying Oberman until everything can be rethought.

Darla Dixon February 23, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Here's an analogy that may shed some light on why the bill is being questioned. If you wanted to hire someone to do some typing, and Job Candidate A types 30 words per minute, and Job Candidate B types 70 words per minute and you were going to pay the typist per hour, which candidate would you hire? Of course, you'd hire the person who typed the fastest, because you would get the most value for your money, right? That's how it is here. Tony Powell has 30 years' worth of municipal experience. Council members could ask him a question, and he'd know the answer right away. Stuart Oberman on the other hand, although he may very well be a wonderful guy (this is what I hear from friends) and that's fine, but if he has to do hours and hours of research, it costs us as taxpayers much more money. Tony Powell made a donation to Barbara Bender's mayoral campaign, and it's my belief that that is the reason Mayor Kautz didn't want him any more as City Attorney.
Darla Dixon February 23, 2012 at 02:49 PM
PS: As with any bill, if you have questions about the charges, and you do not receive adequate, detailed explanation so you understand your bill, you don't pay it. Once you pay it, all bargaining power goes out the window. This is basic Business Law I learned in 10th grade.

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