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Audit report gives glimpse into legal services billing

By Charles Sercombe

In the recent review of work invoices of four city contractors, the city’s legal firm, the Allen Brothers, was also looked at.

The firm submitted its monthly billing for May 2011 for the audit.

That’s a 180-degree turn of events from last April when The Review requested to see the firm’s billing to the city for January and February. The Review made a Freedom of Information Act request to see the bills after Councilmember Cathie Gordon made an issue about how much the city is being charged and for what.

She demanded that the law firm make the billings available for public review.

But James Allen, who is the City Attorney for Hamtramck, denied the request, saying it is “privileged” information.

Here is what he said, through City Clerk Ed Norris, in explaining his denial to The Review’s Freedom of Information Act request:

“These communications are privileged and protected from disclosure to third parties. In addition, the information in these invoices are communicated only to high ranking city officials also contain the mental impressions and work product of members of the city’s law firm.”

City Attorney James Allen

Allen/Norris went on to say:

“These communications are also privileged and, by statute and common law, not subject to disclosure to third parties. Opening them up to public view, especially in matters involving pending and potential litigation (as well as contemplated commercial transactions) would seriously compromise any attorney’s ability to competently represent the city’s interests and effectively communicate about the work that attorney does, much of which is, by necessity, confidential in nature.”

So, just what are these “mental impressions” included in the billings? Well, here’s a sampling of the “privileged” information that was included in the audit report:

Email from C. Gordon regarding tax amnesty.

Court appearance for prosecution duty in 31st DistrictCourt.

Two (2) emails from Cooper regarding tax amnesty.

Email the Council regarding the same.

Email from Paruk regarding interns.

Email from Cooper regarding the same.

Review the history regarding the same and forward to the client.

Email D. Kaplani regarding interns.

Receipt of a reply from Debbie.

Email from Cooper regarding paranormal research.

Email reply to the same.

Court appearance for prosecution duty.

Email from Cooper regarding Matthew Herch.

Email from Ed regarding the Lorelli FOIA.

Email from Ed regarding the 2009 fine code ordinance.

Email from Paruk regarding the same.

Email the Chief and Mayor regarding trial exhibits immigration resource.

Email from Ed regarding a petition for ballot question.

Email from Debbie Kaplani to Ashley Bonner regarding risk management.

Receipt and review for the McCoy in-car videos.

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