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May 11, 2013

Willow Park City Council fires legal team, hires new attorney in lawsuit

By CHRISTIN COYNE

WILLOW PARK – The Willow Park City Council took action Tuesday night to disengage the legal firm representing the city in lawsuit filed against it by an engineering firm and hire a new attorney to represent them in the case.

In December, district judge Trey Loftin ruled against the city, granting a summary judgment requiring the city to pay engineering firm E.S. & C.M., a company alleging breach of contract, about $190,000 plus attorney fees and other costs.

However, District Judge Craig Towson, who replaced Loftin, tossed the summary judgment in March and accepted a motion for a new trial.

The city was very unsatisfied and didn’t feel Strasburger Price lived up to its reputation, Shaffstall said, adding the city also believed the attorney’s billing was out of line.

The first bill he received as city administrator, which covered the winter period, was for about $38,000, causing him to immediately stop and question why the bill was so high, Shaffstall said.

Prior the meeting, the city sent out a request for qualifications and selected Matthew Motes of Decker, Jones, McMackin, Hall & Bates.

During discussion of an attorney-client agreement between the city and Decker Jones, mayor pro tem Gene Martin asked whether they should clarify that the city agreed to an hourly rate for productive hours, noting that was an issue for the council with their previous representation.

The city has also had an issue regarding budgeting for routine city attorney services.

During a recent budget amendment workshop, the council was told the city had not received a bill from city attorney Rider Scott this year. The latest bill the city received covered a period during the previous fiscal year, staff reported.

Though a letter was sent requesting an invoice, the city had not received one as of Wednesday, according to Shaffstall. 

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