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Government and outside counsel: DC



Those of us in the DC area know that construction of the new stadium for the Washington Nationals is proceeding apace. The DC council set a strict budget of $611 million for the stadium. It turns out this budget may be busted (with huge political and legal repercussions) thanks to -- you guessed it -- inflated lawyers' bills. As Legal Times reports, the Venable law firm, hired by the District to take care of legal work required for the procurement of land for the stadium (allowed under Kelo) has billed for almost 3 times the amount it limited itself to under its engagement contract.

During the first year of the contract alone, Venable submitted invoices totaling nearly $1.2 million � $250,000 more than the contract called for. By that point, the District had already paid the firm $945,000, raising no questions about the invoices. There is no evidence that the District's attorney general�s contracting officer ever reviewed bills before forwarding them on to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer for payment.

The newspaper reports that associates and others whose jobs weren�t disclosed were billed out at much higher rates than allowed. According to the contract, in the second year of its contract Venable associate billing rates were capped at an already generous $268 an hour, yet they were billing between $285 and $310 an hour. With associates billing hundreds of hours, the additional fees quickly added up.

From November 2006 until March 2007, Venable overbilled the city more than $200,000, according to the auditor�s report. The firm also billed for meals not covered by the contract. Yet the city kept paying � no questions asked. That is, until the money ran out and the D.C. auditor got involved. The firm has quickly offered to return $300,000, but an investigation is now underway.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.