The City of Boston spent $2.3 million last year on outside legal advice, an increase from previous years fueled by lawsuits, investigations and rising hourly rates, according to city data.
The bill of $2,262,780.28 for fiscal year 2022 – from July 1, 2021 to last June 30 – was up from $1,712,147.16 the previous fiscal year and $1,705,074.73 in 2020.
The total bill for 2022 is determined by a few big chunks that each exceed a quarter of a million dollars. The biggest beneficiary of the city’s legal woes is William Sinnott of Hinckley Allen & Snyder, the attorney who led the city’s $400,196.54 deeply damning investigation into the Mission Hill School K -8 which led to its closure.
Sinnott also received $101,382.30 for his work defending the city’s school district in the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence’s federal lawsuit over exam schools policy. He earned $635 an hour for his work in both fields.
Outside attorneys defending the city in various lawsuits make up a large portion of the legal fees. The most expensive — and eye-catching — is a series of ongoing dueling lawsuits in which a former Boston Public Library janitorial supervisor and the city and former mayor Martin Walsh are suing over the supervisor’s firing. as part of an overtime plan among concierges returning in 2018.
The city paid outside attorney Brian T. Kelly of Nixon Peabody, a former top prosecutor, $363,628.80 in fiscal year 2022 alone, for “Coordinating Response Inquires, Durfee v. COB (City of Boston)” , far more than the $97,159.10 he received for the same purpose last year.
Attorney Evan Ouelette of Brody, Hardoon got $238,014.58 from the city to work on the cases of Donna Galvin v. BPD and Jean & Verlande Regis c. COB.
These two cases highlight the cases’ often substantial settlements, as the city must pay former police lieutenant Galvin $2 million for a discrimination and retaliation complaint, and another $500,000 to the Regises, who claimed that the BPD had broken down their door in the middle of the night and handcuffed them, only to find out later that it was the wrong address.
Other notables include the $278,710.73 the city paid to Rose Allen of Rose Law for “Land Use & Property Acquisition Matters, Long Island Bridge,” related to the city’s ongoing efforts to rebuild a major bridge despite Quincy’s opposition.
Mayor Michelle Wu, who began her term as mayor about five months into the 2022 fiscal year, has been the subject of several high-profile lawsuits, including ones over the city’s vaccination mandate and restrictions on North End outdoor dining.
This all seems to be within the purview of Kay Hodge and others at the Stoneman, Chandler company. This “miscellaneous business with COB” earned the company $298,455.38 for $265 an hour work. Even though this is one of the biggest chunks a company received last year, it is actually lower than the previous year’s $434,983.73, although it is much higher to $80,581 in fiscal 2020.
In 2022, the going rate for most lawyers was $265 an hour, though a few earned a little more, and Sinnott and Kelly much more. That baseline increased from $235 per hour in fiscal year 2021 and a split between $225 and $235 for most city-contract attorneys in 2020.
The city notes that this is not actually a complete list of attorneys who have worked for the city, as individual departments hire outside attorneys for specific purposes.
Boston has its own law firm, led by the company’s top in-house attorney. For years under Walsh, it was Eugene O’Flaherty, and now for Wu it’s Adam Cederbaum, with longtime legal department vet Henry Luthin filling the middle job under acting mayor Kim Janey. .
Flipping through the 2021 and 2020 lists is a trip down memory lane among the oddities and scandals of the city of Boston. There’s the $34,020.00 the city had to pay Lauren Goldberg of KP Law to handle the 2019 city council recount job. 2020 to handle, among other things, the year-long grand jury subpoenas where the feds were hitting City Hall with paperwork over zoning board corruption claims and investigations into pottery store approvals .
And then, over several years, money was splashed around the case in which black police officers alleged that the hair drug test used by the police department came back with a disproportionate number of false positives for black people. In 2020, the city paid attorney Helen Litsas $233,284.97 and Thomas Fitzpatrick $66,618.39; then in 2021 $128,287.05 to Fitzpatrick and $50,337.84 to Litsas; then in 2022, an additional $14,531.25 for Litsas and $5,170.22 for Fitzpatrick.