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Date of Issue: July 26, 2007

Attorney's bills questioned in Bradenton Beach

Questions have been raised in Bradenton Beach regarding the billing by a city attorney.

City Commissioner Bill Shearon has written to city attorney Ricinda Perry that he “has tried to be tolerant and understanding but can no longer accept 'no response' to your firms' inability to address questions or invoice for services in a timely manner.”

He added, “I feel as a commissioner I have a responsibility to the taxpayers” regarding payment of the bills.

Perry responded with a lengthy memo regarding the invoice inquiries. She wrote that the contract between her law firm, Lewis Longman and Walker, P.A., calls for bills on a monthly basis.

“Due to recent litigation by TheIslander against the city, our office has had to repeatedly pull the city's billing entries and provide premature statements that have not been reviewed and finalized in an effort to timely respond to public records' requests submitted by TheIslander,” Perry wrote. “These requests have caused a delay in our firm's ability to close out the city's billing entries and to provide an invoice for services rendered during an exact 30-day period. Additionally, accounting department employees' personal summer vacations have also contributed to recent delays in the firm's billing cycles.”

The Islander initiated a lawsuit April 11 in order to obtain public records pertaining to a sexual harassment complaint against the city by code enforcement officer Gail Garneau against Ed McAdam, the city's former building official. McAdam resigned his post in March.

Shearon responded in his memorandum that, “As an elected official, I believe your firms' actions do not address issues that date back to December 2006, they are unprofessional, unethical and place the commissioners in a position that they are not being accountable for tax dollars.”

Mayor John Chappie said that the billings for Lewis Longman and Walker were originally placed on the July 19 meeting agenda, but were pulled because the backup material required for discussion was not yet available.

Shearon told The Islander that he fears that during his vacation, which is from July 25 to Aug. 15, Chappie will “skirt” the matter and put it on the agenda in an attempt to have the attorney's bills paid without his scrutiny.