Feb 7 2011

Opinion: City Costs for Moraga Canyon Sports Fields

A letter on Legal Fees Related to the Moraga Canyon Sports Fields:

Editor’s Note: PCA received the following copy of a Piedmont resident’s letter to the City.  The letter refers to PRFO (Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization), EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and LSA (the environmental planning consultant).

Feb 4, 2011

John Tulloch
Clerk, City of Piedmont

Piedmont City Council
Agenda Item 5: Mid-Year Financial Report

Dear City Council,

In the report concerning expenditures of the “Moraga Canyon Sports Fields” (MCSF) at page 9, legal fees to date states $43,155. See attached records provided by the City showing attorney fees totaling $57,098 through 12/31/2010.  The $57,098 figure does not include Mr. Peyton’s legal services on this matter, probably commencing 2006. The city was unable to provide this information so the actual cost is higher than the $57,098.  Why is there minimally a $13,943 discrepancy in the figures?

Mr. Grote has repeatedly stated there is no public money for this project, that the private proponents placing this before the Council are to bear the cost of development, construction and maintenance. PRFO agrees as on Sep. 21, 2009 before this Council Steve Ellis, the generous private donor who has provided EIR funds, stated: “we have also committed to funding the costs associated with the EIR.” The attorney invoices attached show that Mr. Grote retained attorneys to work with LSA directly since the inception of the EIR in September of 2009. Retaining attorneys at the beginning of the EIR cannot be considered review. The work is preparation and creation.

The legal invoices attached are a direct result of and associated with the LSA EIR. Were there no EIR there would be no attorney costs associated with the EIR, neither for review or creation. Neil Teixeira requested “known attorney related legal costs . . . incurred by the city . . . for the Moraga Canyon . . . Project.” My understanding is that these attorneys have never met with Council on this matter, nor would they as there is no litigation pending on this matter. I believe these attorneys have not met the 200+ billed hours with staff. I surmise these attorney billings are for working directly with LSA in preparing the EIR. If these attorney fees billed to taxpayers are for direct meetings with PRFO, that would be a more serious matter.

Why was this $57,098 not charged to PRFO as these attorney costs are a directly associated cost of the EIR?  Who did these attorneys meet with and advise directly? Did they meet with and advise LSA and PRFO?

The total paid to LSA according to Mr. Grote’s 11/1/2010 report “LSA Contract amendment” is $146,200 ($95,000 + $26,200 + $25,000). The $57,098 in attorney fees is minimally 39% of $146,200. We do not know Mr. Peyton’s billings which would increase the percentage. I consider 39% significantly more than “a slight increase,”  Mr. Grote’s characterization of these fees on 12/6/2010. I contend that staff should be neutral and not advocate for the MCSF project, both in actual taxpayer funds spent on this project and how they are characterized.

The page 8 summation box of the report shows “LSA for EIR $33,844.” Page 9 column 1 “City Expended to date” for item “LSA for EIR” shows $99,545. These charges appear to be to general taxpayers funds and not paid by PRFO. The “Private Funding” total $261,200 is entirely accounted for in the column 2 summation. I ask for an explanation of these additional “LSA for EIR” charges to general taxpayer funds.
Unfortunately I will most likely not be able to attend the meeting. Perhaps consideration can be given to addressing my questions posed above.

Rick Schiller
Piedmont, CA

Attachments:  City Correspondence with Neil Teixeira

(This letter expresses the personal opinions of the author. All statements made are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

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