Attorney fees require Hamlet budget amendment

Routine budget amendments close out 2013-14

By Kevin Spradlin

HamletHAMLET — Three members of the Hamlet City Council this afternoon approved routine budget amendments intended to close out the Fiscal Year 2014 ledger.

The issue was voted on by council members Jesse McQueen, Eddie Martin and Johnathan Buie. Councilmen Pat Preslar and Tony Clewis did not attend the meeting.

The amendments included a line item for $20,000, explained by Finance Officer Jill Dickens to include $4,000 for survey fees.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the remaining $16,000 is earmarked for new city attorney T.C. Morphis Jr.

Dickens said that Morphis billed the city $2,400 from the time of his appointment in March through the end of March. As of Monday’s meeting, that amount had already been paid and did not factor into the budget amendments.

The billing for April and May totaled approximately $6,500, Dickens said. She expected billing for work Morphis and his partners conducted for the city in June to finish out at another $4,500 — or a total of approximately $11,000. The difference of about $5,000 still leaves a balanced budget, Dickens said. And any difference is in the city’s favor.

City officials, including Acting City Manager Tammy Kirkley, noted that the city’s legal fees have been high in recent months but during this time council members have requested of Morphis some “unusual, out of the ordinary stuff.”

Morphis has been tasked with, among other things, to revise the city’s mobile home ordinance, to work with the State Bureau of Investigation to bring a close into any and every matter related to former Hamlet Police Chief John Haywood, sewer tap issues for a Juanita Avenue resident and the legality of the previous council’s employment contract offer to City Manager Marchell Adams-David. Adams-David was not present at Monday’s meeting. She remains on leave.

At the city’s March public meeting, the council voted 3-2 — with members Pat Preslar and Tony Clewis dissenting — to appoint Morphis as city attorney. He replaced Steven Futrell. Futrell’s billing rate was $150 per hour in addition to a $100 monthly retainer fee, city officials said. Morphis’ rate is higher — $175 per hour, and $180 for work done by his partners, in addition to a $650 monthly retainer.

Another budget amendment approved Monday was a $29,000 expense for repairs for water main bust. Insurance took care of it, but the company sent the check to the city instead of the contractor. That action necessitated a budget amendment.

The $20,000 came from unexpended funds earmarked intended this current fiscal year for condemnation proceedings.


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