Pickaway News Journal

Sat, Apr 29, 2017

Council approves payment of legal fees, anticipates large overtime bill later this month

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Council member Barry Keller (center) offered the only dissenting vote Tuesday on an ordinance to cover the cost of the city's legal fees. Also pictured are council members Mike Logan (left) and Todd Brady. (Photo by Trish Bennett)

CIRCLEVILLE - City council this week approved an ordinance to redistribute funds from other departments to help cover about $36,000 in legal fees incurred by the city this year.

The fees cover a range of items including union negotiations for all three unions, civil service issues, city legal matters and a variety of other legal type of expenditures, according to Gayle Spangler, city auditor.

Those fees do include legal bills for the city's police and fire departments, but those are not the only unforeseen expenses for the two departments this year, Spangler said. She told the city's Finance Committee at a meeting Aug. 25 that she will be proposing an ordinance later this month to cover substantial overtime charges for the safety forces as well.

The ordinance passed at Tuesday's regular meeting of Circleville City Council appropriated about $36,000 by transferring funds from a variety of line items to cover those legal expenses.

The recent investigation of the city's fire chief made up $11,264 of those expenses as of last week's finance meeting, Spangler said. An additional bill received Tuesday now brings that total to $17,327.30. Spangler said she will look into the procedures, but she will likely have to introduce a new ordinance for the additional amount.

About $11,400 of the $36,000 in fees was transferred from the equipment line at the fire department from money originally budgeted for the purchase of a new vehicle.

The remainder was covered by about $7,200 in excess Bureau of Workers Compensation funds; $550 in excess fire hydrant money; $7,500 from county auditor fees; $4,750 in state examiner fees; and $5,000 from the city service department.

"We would anticipate these legal fees should hold us through the rest of the year," Spangler told the committee last week.

In that meeting, council member Barry Keller expressed his disapproval of the proposed option to pay the bill.

"If you had a Plan B, what would you do?" he asked Spangler.

"I don't have a Plan B," she said. "The mayor and I scraped every budget fund we thought we could use to come up with this one."

Spangler told the committee she would have another housekeeping ordinance in September to address police and fire overtime, which she described as "pretty extensive," but no figure was provided during that meeting.

When asked where she thought that money might come from, Spangler said she and Mayor Don McIlroy will be meeting this month to see if they can come up with the money to pay the overtime.

In the meantime, she said there are several in-house steps being taken to reduce those expenses, and getting people hired into open positions quickly will help reduce those numbers going forward.

"We did have a police officer doing security for municipal court, and that officer is now back on the street," Spangler said. "Judge Gary Dumm put a temporary probation officer to sit downstairs so one of our uniformed officers don't have to, so things like that will help."

She said the city also is not currently paying the expenses of a police chief since the July 31 retirement of Chief Wayne Gray, so that money could also potentially be used to supplement the safety forces' overtime.

The ordinance to transfer the $36,000 in funds was approved by city council on Tuesday with Keller offering the only dissenting vote.

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