Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said Monday that he is troubled by the amount of money that the city of Pacific pays its attorney.
Pacific last fiscal year paid $181,945 to the firm of Cunningham, Vogel & Rost of St. Louis, according to the city clerk’s office.
Pacific’s city attorney is Dan Vogel, but the city pays the firm as a whole, not Vogel individually, said Pacific City Clerk Kim Barfield.
Griesheimer said he has heard that there have been some years that Vogel’s firm charged Pacific between $200,000 to $300,000.
That is excessive, Griesheimer said.
“I don’t know how he (Vogel) can justify that to the city,” Griesheimer said, adding that, “Something is drastically wrong,” with what Pacific pays for legal services.
For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Pacific has budgeted $150,000 for city attorney services. And through March 31, Pacific had paid $88,190, Barfield said.
Vogel has been Pacific’s attorney for almost 11 years.
The Missourian asked Barfield what Pacific paid Vogel’s firm in other years, but she did not have the information immediately available.
Griesheimer noted that Vogel is only a part-time attorney for Pacific, which has a population of 7,000 residents. No attorney representing a city the size of Pacific should make that much money, Griesheimer said.
The Pacific citizens need to open their eyes and realize what’s going on, he added.
“This has been going on a long time,” Griesheimer said.
Griesheimer made comments about Vogel’s pay during a work session of the county commission Monday.
There “needs to be a massive house cleaning” of Pacific’s administration, including the mayor and city attorney, Griesheimer said.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Griesheimer said.
It appears the Pacific Board of Aldermen has turned a “blind eye” toward the amount of money Vogel makes, Griesheimer said.
Asked why he cares how much Pacific pays its attorney, Griesheimer said the people of that city are the county commission’s constituents, too.
Pacific Ward II Alderman Steve Myers bemoaned the poor relationship between the city and the county.
“I think it is unfortunate that the city and the county are at odds with each other,” Myers said. “But I believe it is something that over time can be worked out.”
Myers added, “Bickering and squabbling doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Myers said he is withholding judgment on Griesheimer’s statements until he has a chance to speak directly with him.
Pacific recently sued the Brush Creek Sewer District, which is overseen by the three county commissioners. Griesheimer said he personally thinks the lawsuit is just another way for Vogel to make more money.
“It’s sad,” Griesheimer said.
The sewer district has expressed interest in resolving the lawsuit, Griesheimer said. But he said Vogel has no incentive to settle the matter because it would mean the loss of income.
Therefore, the sewer district is going to fight the suit “with everything we’ve got,” Griesheimer said.
Vogel and Mayor Herb Adams run Pacific, Griesheimer said, adding that City Administrator Harold Selby is just a “figurehead.”
The Pacific Board of Aldermen is also not taking charge, Griesheimer said.
He added that Vogel makes more money than Franklin County Counselor Mark Vincent, who receives a salary of $115,000 a year plus benefits. And Vincent represents the entire county, Griesheimer noted.
What Other Cities Pay
The city of Sullivan pays its attorney $100 an hour. Last year, Sullivan’s city attorney received a total of $31,955, and that was for handling city matters and prosecution services, said Sullivan City Clerk Jan Koch.
Vogel does not serve as Pacific Municipal Court prosecutor. Union attorney Matthew Schroeder serves as the municipal court prosecutor.
Pacific paid Schroeder’s firm $15,055 for legal services last year, according to the city clerk’s office.
The city of St. Clair pays its attorney $1,500 a month to attend aldermen meetings and planning and zoning meetings. Last year, the monthly rate was $1,250, but it was raised this year
There are additional costs if the attorney is used for other purposes. In total for 2012, St. Clair paid its attorney $35,251, City Clerk Chris Fawe said.
The city of Union has a budget of not to exceed $32,000 for its city attorney, and last fiscal year paid its attorney $28,944, according to Finance Officer Heather Keith.
The city of Washington pays its attorney $150 an hour, and in 2012 paid a total of $40,120, according to city officials. The hourly rate for Washington’s city attorney was raised to $150 this year, and it had been $130 for a number of years.
Vogel did not return a phone call seeking comment. Selby and Adams also did not return phone calls seeking comment.