City Council Approves Paying $6.7 Million to Turner’s Former Law Partner

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Yesterday, on an 11-4 vote, Houston City Council approved a $35 million contract for outreach to Harvey victims that included $6.7 million set aside for legal fees to Barnes & Associates, formerly Barnes & Turner.  To put that number in some perspective, it is a little less than half the annual budget for the City’s entire legal department, which  has 116 employees.*  According to its website, Barnes & Associates has four lawyers.**

Here is how the Council Members voted:

We know that the roughly $1 billion in relief funds the City will receive will be woefully inadequate to meet all the needs of those who did not have flood insurance or other resources with which they could repair their homes.  Every dollar the City spends on administrative costs is one less dollar that will actually go to help someone with their repairs.

Outreach is an important component to our recovery.  But this function could have been done at a fraction of this cost, and certainly without spending $6.7 million on legal fees.

[Click here for City Legal Department Budget]

**  [Click here for Barnes & Associates personnel listing]

7 Comments
  • Keith Ellery
    Posted at 15:19h, 10 November Reply

    Mr King it perplexes my why the city needs outside council when they already has a full legal staff to handle such matters

    • Bill King
      Posted at 10:43h, 15 November Reply

      There were a lot of ways to get this work done more economically. I suspect the title industry would have run the title reports as a public service and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Assn would have done the other legal work on a pro bono basis.

    • Jason Hochman
      Posted at 03:24h, 17 November Reply

      The city needs all the help it can get. Mr Feldman was the city attorney during Mayor Parker. He is a Texas Super Lawyer, however, when the voters chose to get rid of the red light cameras, the city had to pay out the entire contract. Now I am not a super lawyer, really not even very smart, but I know that government contracting should always have a termination for convenience (t for c) clause that would allow the city to get out of the contract with 30 days notice and only paying cost up to that point. Maybe I will run for mayor and start collecting signatures for petition in lieu of filing fee, maybe in January or February.

  • Jason Hochman
    Posted at 00:11h, 15 November Reply

    Is the contract from federal funding? Or is it from the city’s general fund?

    • Bill King
      Posted at 10:41h, 15 November Reply

      City Council approved $5 million to start the work from TIRZ affordable housing funds. The City expects/hopes to be reimbursed for the full cost of the contract from federal Harvey relief funds. There seems to be some question about whether the contract will qualify for reimbursement. But even if it does, anything spent on the contract will reduce the amount to actually assist Harvey victims to repair or rebuild their homes.

  • Jett Rominger
    Posted at 21:49h, 04 December Reply

    Is there any way we can get detail as to how the $6.7m is spent…legal bills etc?

    • Bill King
      Posted at 00:58h, 05 December Reply

      Probably not. Turner’s former law partner is a subcontractor to the prime. If the City gets his bills to them they would be subject to the Open Records Act, but my guess is that they will be in the City files and subject to the ORA.

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