DDA board hires backup attorney, votes to request bids for primary legal counsel

By Megan Kelley

Review Writer

Lake Orion’s Downtown Development Authority board met for their regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 14, where another chapter was closed on the board’s ongoing attorney discussion when the board voted to hire Robert Davis of the firm Davis Burket Savage Listman as the board’s backup attorney.

Included in the approved motion was a bid request so the board could discuss possibly retaining Davis as permanent legal counsel.

The board itself has spent a good portion of time this year discussing attorney bills and information, beginning with the village’s attempt to remove Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett from the DDA board.

During that proceeding, the village’s attorney, Mary Kucharek of Beier Howlett, worked with and provided legal services to both the village and DDA creating what several board members considered to be a clear “conflict of interest.”

Despite the hearing ultimately being canceled and never rescheduled, issues continued to arise when the DDA was billed in error for the village’s legal services in June and when DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone found items on the July bill that she had to request be removed.

In August, the board voted 6-1 (Barnett casting the lone nay vote) to continue using the legal services contracted through the village with Beier Howlett but to use a different attorney at the same hourly rate.

In September, the board held a special meeting where the board voted to approve an Request for Proposal for backup legal services.

The DDA received two bids, one from Davis and another from Sarah J. Gabis of Foster Swift. On Oct. 25, the bids were opened and reviewed by Barnett, LaLone and village Manager Joe Young and interviews were scheduled with the interview team consisting of DDA board members Lloyd Coe, Joan Sheridan and Vice-Chairperson Matt Shell.

“The (interview) team found that both of the lawyers were very competent, they had DDA experience and they both had advantages,” said LaLone.

The interview team’s assessment was that while both lawyers and could perform their duties for the DDA, ultimately the team decided to go with Davis’ “personal approach” and lowest bid of $95 per hour. Gabis’ rate was $200 per hour.

At present, the DDA pays $165 per hour for their current attorney, Mary Kucharek.

“When we started this process, I thought that our existing counsel was at a rate that we would never be able to beat. And Mr. Davis was highly impressive in the meeting we had with him and the rate is just astonishing for the background that he has so that was good news,” Shell said. “If we do consider going for primary counsel bid, I think he should be considered.”

The coupling of the $70 difference in cost along with the DDA’s past controversy with their primary legal counsel was enough for the DDA board to unanimously approve the motion, which included an RFQ for permanent legal counsel.

“We didn’t think we could get a better price than what the village already had for things like contract review and that kind of thing; so why pay more for those non-controversial things?

“But we should have somebody ready to go in the event that there’s a controversial issue. In the process we discovered that maybe we can (at) almost half the price and still get somebody that’s really good,” Shell said. “In that situation, there’s no conflict of having the village and DDA represented by the same firm.”

 

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