Fred Nance, of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, bills Cleveland $539,000

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 01/14/00

"Law firm partner billed Cleveland $539,000 for legal work over two years

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A partner in a law firm billed the city more than half a million dollars the past two years in part for his work regarding the new Cleveland Browns Stadium and the restored NFL Browns francise, a newspaper reported today.

Fred Nance, who often has advised Mayor Michael R. White on complex legal issues, in 1998 and 1999 billed the city for more than $539,000 for his work. During this period, he averaged more than 120 hours a month for the city, The Plain Dealer reported.

Nance's billings account for about a quarter of the $2.2 million the city paid over the past two years to Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, the law firm where he is a partner.

The Plain Dealer last month requested the firm's itemized bills to determine how much and what sort of work Nance does for the city. Despite the city's deletions, the records show how many hours Nance and other lawyers worked.

The newspaper reported that the billing records are often unclear and that city lawyers blotted out most of the details, claiming that attorney-client privilege exempts the information from the Ohio Public Records Law ...

Councilman Michael Dolan, who plans to request the complete itemized bills of Nance's law firm, said Nance's hiring was patronage ...

City records show the city is spending $5 million a year on private lawyers.

Councilman Michael O'Malley this week introduced an ordinance that would require council approval before spending $10,000 on any one case. The proposal is under review by the Law Department.

"What's wrong with our own Law Department that we cannot do the work in-house?" O'Malley asked.

The law director is permitted by a 1924 ordinance to hire private lawyers to handle "special emergencies," although the ordinance does not define the term. Council members say the law was intended to meet the need for expertise in very specific areas of law."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 1-14-00, By CHRISTOPHER QUINN, PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

"On two August days in 1998, Cleveland lawyer Fred Nance accompanied potential owners of the expansion Cleveland Browns on tours of the new waterfront stadium, which was then under construction.

He billed city taxpayers $180 an hour for his time ...

In 1998 and 1999, he billed the city for more than $539,000 in work. During this period, he averaged more than 120 hours a month for the city, the equivalent of three 40-hour work weeks each month.

Council members, who argue that the city's Law Department should do most of its legal work, were shocked by these figures ...

Nance's billings account for about a quarter of the $2.2 million the city paid to his firm, Squire Sanders & Dempsey, where he is a partner, over the last two years.

"The numbers are staggering - that one man could bill the city for over $530,000 in two years," O'Malley said.

Exactly what Nance did to earn more than half a million dollars cannot be determined from copies of legal bills the city provided to The Plain Dealer. Nance and city lawyers blotted out most of the details, claiming that attorney-client privilege exempts the information from the Ohio Public Records Law ...

The Plain Dealer last month requested the firm's itemized bills to determine how much and what sort of work Nance does for the city. Despite the city's deletions, the records show how many hours Nance and other lawyers worked, by day and by case.

Nance's billing rate is $325 an hour, while associates at the firm cost as little as $155 an hour. The firm charges the city a "blended" rate of $180 or $190 per hour for all legal work, including Nance's.

The city Law Department, whose mission is to represent the city's interest in "all legal proceedings," according to the mayor's budget documents, has a $7.5 million annual budget. The figure includes more than $4 million in salaries for the department, which includes more than 50 lawyers.

Lesic said each of the city lawyers, whose average pay is $39,000 a year, were handling about 30 cases each at any time. She said they did not have the time to handle technically complex cases that last years ..."

COLUMN from THE PLAIN DEALER, Wednesday, January 19, 2000, BY AFI-ODELIA SCRUGGS

"If Nance can do it, so can Ebonee

"Afi, I know it's tax time," my friend Ebonee O'Hara reminded me. "And since you're pulling all your financial records together, I thought I'd submit my invoice for services rendered."

It had been several weeks since I had talked to Ebonee, or even seen her. But I didn't remember any services she rendered, or promising her any payment.

And I told her so.

"You're right," she said. "We never talked money outright. But that doesn't mean compensation is not required for all the help I've given you."

What kind of help?

"The same kind of help, for example, that attorney Fred Nance gave the city of Cleveland."

Ahhh, right. Nance, a lawyer at Squire Sanders & Dempsey - and, more important, a longtime adviser to the mayor of Cleveland - billed the city more than $539,000 for legal work performed in 1998 and 1999.

In August 1998 alone, he billed for $30,000. He said he earned it by, among other things, strolling around the unfinished stadium with potential owners of the Cleveland Browns.

The bulk of his duties, though, remains a mystery. City officials blotted out the details when they released the bills to The Plain Dealer, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Still, Nance's work must have been quite impressive if the city was willing to pay him such large amounts.

"Not at all," Ebonee said. "City and corporate officials understand that, sometimes, the work itself isn't worth all that much. But time is always money."

Evidently, I insisted, Mr. Nance has unique skills. That has to be why the city hired him, instead of using its own salaried lawyers.

What, I asked Ebonee, do you do?

"The same thing he apparently does so well," she answered quickly. "We're both consultants. And you consult me all the time.

"Take, for example, that time I came over to your house in July."

That time you came over my house in July? Wasn't that a holiday visit? Didn't I provide an abundant buffet? Didn't you partake to your heart's content?

"Not of everything," she said calmly. "You know I don't eat pork, and you neglected to cook beef ribs. But the circumstances don't matter. What matters is that I spent three hours talking with your relatives and friends ..."

Some of those folks are your friends, I interrupted.

"Again, let's not get hung up on details," she said. "Usually I charge $320 an hour for that kind of work. Since we have such a close relationship, I'll give you a substantial discount."

I could hear the keys clicking on her calculator, as Ebonee figured up the amount.

"That's three hours at $180 an hour. ... The subtotal is $540," she told me.

My mouth opened and closed while I tried to protest. She continued without me.

"In November, we held numerous telephone conversations to discuss the menu for Thanksgiving dinner ..."

Another food-related situation, huh?

"Cooking and eating are just two of my numerous areas of expertise," she said modestly.

"According to my records, we spent two hours on the telephone."

That's another $360, right?

"Right you are. You're getting the hang of this," she said. ... ''

E-mail: ascruggs@plaind.com

CITY CHATTER from THE FREE TIMES, 4-6-00

"THE I-X FILES

Sky-high legal fees... Criticism has been leveled at Mayor Mike White for all the outside legal expenses his administration has incurred, a lot of it going to Fred Nance at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Everyone was up in arms recently over the fact that the city spent $2.2 million over the last two years (according to documents release by the mayor).

Well, those numbers seem to be wildly underestimated. Documents show that Mayor White has spent more than $2 million of the taxpayer's money just to fight with Brook Park Mayor Tom Coyne over the I-X Center.

... It appears there wasn't much Squire, Sanders & Dempsey could do in the way of real legal work, so they only billed the city $1,194.48 for, of all things, "photocopying fees." ... ''

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