Attorneys invoice needs to spell out rate charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dear editor,

On Oct. 8, 2007, Mayor James Perkins Jr. signed an engagement letter for the services of attorney Terri Sewell of Maynard, Cooper & Gale P.C. The services were to be performed in relation to the mayor’s $12.3 million bond issue. The engagement letter clearly stated that if for any reason the financing for the bonds was not consummated, “We will expect you to compensate us at our normal hourly rate for time actually spent on the bond issue, plus client charges, as stated above.”

On Feb. 26, the voters of Selma rejected Mayor Perkins’ bond issue. Per the engagement letter the mayor signed in Oct. 2007, Ms. Sewell has now sent the city a bill for $30,000. According to Ms. Sewell, a very capable attorney, this represents a 25 percent discount of the actual bill, which would be $40,000.

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Here is the problem for Mayor Perkins and members of the council who must approve this bill. The bill given to the city is a one paragraph summary of services performed and a total due of $30,000. The bill indicates neither an hourly rate for the work nor the number of hours billed to the city.

From my limited practice of law, I believe that most bills from attorneys indicate the hourly rate, hours billed at that rate and the work done in those hours. I especially think this is needed in this instance because of the engagement letter Mayor Perkins signed indicated that Ms. Sewell would be compensated at her firm’s normal hourly rate.

I am asking Mayor Perkins to request a bill from the firm of Maynard, Cooper & Gale P.C., indicating their hourly rate, how many hours were spent on the bond issue, and what was done for the city during the hours billed. Once we have that bill, the mayor and council will have the more difficult task of trying to find $30,000 to pay it.


Cecil Williamson

Attorney-at-law,Councilman, Ward 1