When a $98,000 legal bill was presented to be paid by the city council last week at a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, Councilor Stephanie Smith showed real spine in tabling the motion.
“If you do that, the bill won’t be paid and it is due,” said a clerk of the city council to the committee members.
After a great deal of back and forth, Smith was adamant.
She said she was tabling the motion until she received the information she was asking for regarding the federal probe into racism now ongoing.
Despite the protests of the clerk, Smith did not budge.
“The law firm can wait two weeks,” she said.
Councilor Darren Costa agreed.
He said he didn’t like voting on measures about which he didn’t know anything.
Both councilors asked for information regarding the probe. Smith wants some sort of explanation from the law firm representing the city or from the US Attorney’s office detailing whatever it is they can detail about an investigation that remains shrouded by a vail of protection.
The US Attorney’s office does not publicly reveal particulars about investigations it is conducting.
In this case, it has been quiet about the probe.
Also, the city council was presented several months back a bill for $500,000 for the same law firm without knowing what it was paying for.
That is, the entire bill, which extended a number of pages showing details of hours billed and for what, were redacted by the city solicitor before being presented to the council.
At last week’s meeting, another request from the city for an additional $250,000 to pay for legal fees, including the $98,000 bill, met a roadblock from Smith and Costa.
Both councilors expressed frustration about knowing virtually nothing about what the city was paying for while at the same time questioning the way the law firm has been billing the city.
Let’s face it. The legal bill will be paid.
However, voters and Everett taxpayers must ask themselves – should $750,000 in bills be paid or moneys appropriated for legal services be approved while the city council is left in the dark?
Of course not.
Now we wait two weeks to see what response, if any, comes from the US Attorney’s office, the Department of Justice, and the city’s legal office about this probe.
Some answers would be appreciated but likely will not be forthcoming in any meaningful way to raise the vail of secrecy surrounded the probe.
The ultimate answer will come when the US Attorney’s office ends the probe or turns it into a full fledged investigation.