Rising legal bills concern some Crestwood citizens

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Some Crestwood citizens are very concerned about the rising cost of the city’s legal bills — and they should be.

Some residents voiced concerns last year that the city was on track to exceed the $110,000 budgeted for legal services from City Attorney Lisa Stump and her firm, Lashly & Baer. But those citizens repeatedly were assured by city officials that legal expenses were on target with the 2014 budget.

In December, aldermen voted to approve a budget amendment requested by City Administrator Mark Sime to appropriate an additional $15,000 for legal services “due to unforeseen legal expenses.” Apparently, Sime was just about the only one who didn’t see the shortfall coming.

It should have been obvious, though, as we believe city officials spend an inordinate amount of taxpayers’ dollars to pay Stump to keep public information from the public. That’s compounded by what can only be characterized as city employees who often don’t know how to perform their duties without consulting with Stump, racking up unnecessary legal expenses.

After last year’s overrun for legal fees, one would think that city officials would attempt to rein in those expenses. But from the legal fees incurred so far this year from Stump and her firm, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the city exceed its 2015 budget of $135,000 for legal services.

In 2015, Mayor Gregg Roby’s ad-ministration is continuing its efforts to keep the public in the dark about city business — just consider the great lengths city officials took to keep UrbanStreet Group’s proposal to redevelop the former Crestwood Plaza needlessly under wraps for nearly a month. What an utter waste of time and taxpayer dollars.

Stump and her associates also have been paid to research what, in our view, is an effort to limit public comment at board meetings. In fact, Lashly & Baer billed the city for drafting an ill-considered and ill-advised statement Roby read at the April 14 meeting when he wanted to “test” having residents address the board solely during the designated period for public comment.

As readers may recall, that “test” went over like a lead balloon.

Ironically, the secrecy surrounding the mall redevelopment and the effort to restrict public comment comes from a mayor who pledged transparency during his campaign. But after serving more than a year in office, Roby’s pledge of transparent government is nothing more than a broken promise.