Lee's legal bill slightly lower after clerical error - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Nick Kenney

Lee's legal bill slightly lower after clerical error

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - MLGW will pay a slightly smaller chunk of money on its former president's legal bills, officials said Wednesday.

Former MLGW President Joseph Lee was accused of keeping the power from being cut off to former Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford Sr., who was a political supporter owing thousands in utility bills.

A scandal over Ford's unpaid bills led to Lee's resignation in May 2007 from his $215,000-a-year job as chief executive of the publicly owned utility company.

Federal charges against Lee were later dropped, and the case never went to trial, but Lee's legal bills still topped $400,000. 

Lee's attorney, Robert Spence, presented Lee with a legal bill that was itemized hour-by-hour.  Spence's fee was $210 per hour, while junior attorneys charged $175 per hour.  Lee was charged for attorney actions that included filing motions, holding outside conferences, reviewing documents and paying courier services.

The bill's original total of $489,000 was lowered by $61,000 when clerical errors and other discrepancies were found on it.

Lee also hired Miami attorney David Howard, who planned on charging the embattled utility president $150,000, but later discounted that to $75,000.

When Lee asked him for an itemized bill, Howard wrote back that he works by flat fee only and that he should've charged Lee $300,000.

Either way, before MLGW pays back Lee, the Memphis City Council must approve.

"I don't know of any state law or federal law that requires the city to pay for this," Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland said Wednesday.

Council members will consider payment of the bill at their September 4th meeting.  If they refuse, the bill will go back to MLGW for further discussion.

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