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City attorney fees in Menahga are more than twice the budgeted amount for 2009

This year, the city of Menahga has spent more than double the amount that was budgeted for attorney fees.

The budget was set for $1,500 and so far, $3,970 has been spent.

City attorney Jeff Pederson has been present at a number of employee evaluation meetings in addition to last week's special meeting that was called to discuss unresolved employee issues and a real estate property deal.

"He was here for both employee evaluations, something we've never done before," said City Administrator Teri Osterman, referring to the evaluation of Greenwood Connections Administrator Clair Erickson and her own evaluation.

Greenwood Connections nursing home has reimbursed the city for all attorney fees spent on issues regarding the facility, including the case of director of nursing Cheryl Lapitz, when she was terminated then reinstated.

In 2008 and 2007, the city also spent double what it budgeted due to township fire contract negotiations. According to city records, about $3,000 was spent each year on attorney fees.

In 2006, attorney fees cost around $1,100 and in 2005, the bills totaled about $500, according to records provided by city hall.

During past city council meetings, councilwoman Maxine Norman has requested that Pederson be present at employee evaluation meetings.

Norman said she couldn't comment on why it was necessary for the attorney to be involved at those meetings until she verifies that the attorney's presence is what caused the fees to more than double this year.

The administration committee is responsible for determining the city's attorney fees budgets. Osterman and the council will set budget committee meeting dates at the council's October meeting next Tuesday.

The Oct. 13 agenda also includes unfinished business regarding Blueberry Township's request to the city for reimbursements of the township's own attorney fees that were spent during the fire contract negotiations this year.