Town of Waukesha chairman upset over high legal fees

Published on: 7/16/2013

Chairman John Marek is not happy with the amount the town is paying toward legal fees. He has brought the issue up at two Town Board meetings, most recently last week.

Marek said he feels spending on legal services are out of control, claiming the town is so far in line to spend more than $100,000 in legal fees this year alone.

He said nearby communities are half or even 10 percent of what the town is paying. "Genesee's is $40,000, Oconomowoc's is $15,000 ... I will continue to address this out of control spending on legal fees," said Marek following discussion without action last Thursday.

However, Town Attorney Hector de la Mora of De La Mora & De La Mora in Elm Grove, the town's municipal attorney, said Marek's claims do not take many things into account.

"Anyone who claims $100,000 has been expended by the town has to be mindful of the fact that two separate administrations are being added together," said De la Mora of the past town administration run by Angie Van Scyoc, who was ousted by Marek this spring.

De la Mora continued that under past administration there was more legal advice sought. He added it's important to note much of the aforementioned total in fees includes "pass through charges."

"There was a lot of time put in with regards to the Walmart development (new Neighborhood Market on Highway 164). That's chargeable to the developer.

"There are also a lot of charges that are chargeable to Dunkin' Donuts that should be passed through early in the year before Mr. Marek came on board," said De la Mora further adding more legal fees are associated with the Five Diamonds, now Infinity Fields, development.

Supervisor Michael Laska agreed with the town attorney.

"Our expenses may be higher than other townships, but we have experienced more litigation than others. Therefore, I feel we're right in line with what needs to be done to protect our town," said Laska.

Laska said even though Marek has asked the topic of town legal fees be put on the agenda for discussion, Laska has hesitated from discussing the issue because he said more documentation is needed.

"We usually have time and documents to review so that we are prepared. But it seems that it's Marek's idea to place stuff on the agenda that doesn't have background and I find that disturbing," said Laska.

Marek countered that he is frustrated with Laska, and other board members', reluctancy to discuss the topic using not enough information as an example. He also said he feels that the De la Mora firm duplicates services charging more than is necessary.

De la Mora explained the town does not pay a retainer fee for legal services, but the firm tries to be as responsive as possible for town needs. De la Mora didn't say if he thinks establishing a retainer fee would be the best fit for the town. He said he thinks the next step would be to sit down with Marek and discuss his concerns.

"The bottom line is we will do whatever the town wants to do. I want to work with them. I think people on the board, despite their different vantage points of looking at things, are well-intended and want to accomplish the most they can for the town.

"What I have been doing since Mr. Marek was sworn in is what I have always done. I think in fairness there are unique challenges the town has been facing over the last two years that have got to be taken into account and can't just be glossed over by comparing this community to that community. To Mr. Marek's credit, he left me with the impression that he's willing to sit down with me," De la Mora concluded.