Error message

  • Warning: preg_match() [function.preg-match]: Unknown modifier '2' in getOS() (line 1183 of /home/citywire/public_html/sites/all/themes/tcw/template.php).
  • Warning: preg_match() [function.preg-match]: Unknown modifier 'c' in getOS() (line 1183 of /home/citywire/public_html/sites/all/themes/tcw/template.php).

Fort Smith officials respond to claims of improper legal billing

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

An attorney engaged in a whistleblower lawsuit against the Fort Smith Police Department is alleging the city of Fort Smith's legal counsel has engaged in improper billing practices and may have broken the law.

The allegations against the Daily and Woods Law Firm were brought to light Tuesday (May 20) by attorney Matt Campbell on his website, the Blue Hog Report.

Campbell’s website story includes details of billing associated with a lawsuit Campbell had filed against the police department related to a Freedom of Information Act request he had made with the department. Campbell is the attorney in a whistle blower lawsuit against the city filed last year.

Campbell had requested documents tied to one of the cases through a FOIA request, but was denied, prompting him to eventually file a lawsuit. The lawsuit was eventually settled, with the city providing the documents requested and Campbell only being out about $315 (costs and filing fee for the lawsuit). But as a result of another FOIA request filed earlier this year, Campbell was able to track billing from the law firm to the city related to his first FOIA request, with the city on the hook to Daily and Woods for a total of $6,778.75.

In adding up the billing from the firm, Campbell noted an unusual number of meetings or telephone conversations between the firm and city officials. Campbell also noted several phone conversations listed by Daily and Woods that did not happen.

"But the 11th (of November)? Nope. None. The 12th? Only one at 3:55 p.m., not two. How about the 18th?  Zero. The 20th? Same. And the 22nd? Shockingly, also zero,” Campbell noted about dates in which Daily and Woods said they talked to Campbell about the document request.

Campbell noted that if the invoices to the city were intentionally inaccurate, the law firm could be committing a crime.

"Depending on whether these invoices were mailed or emailed, submitting a knowingly false invoice for payment could possibly be construed as either mail fraud or wire fraud.  Even if it is not criminal — which is for someone else to ultimately decide — it’s still unethical."

In a telephone call Thursday (May 22), Campbell told The City Wire about another possible charge.

"It could be theft by deception if someone wanted to do it that way, but that's a harder one to prove. The wire fraud is complete at the time it was sent."

Reached for comment, City Attorney Jerry Canfield of Daily and Woods PLLC said he believed the records to be accurate.

"Our records are accurate and we're still in the process of looking at the details that are mentioned in the blog, but our comment is again it's a regular, ongoing monthly process. It's been going on for years. They're subject to public inspection. They've always been subject to public inspection. We're taking the time to evaluate the individual assertions in the blog to make sure we know what all the appropriate facts are."

City Administrator Ray Gosack said he could not provide a detailed comment without seeing all of the documentation Campbell used to compile his blog post, including Campbell's own phone records.

"I really can't comment on it on seeing what records he has that would prove otherwise. I mean, our records are public records and presumably he got those through a FOI request. I think to respond to that, I would need to see what records he has to show otherwise."

Gosack added that audits are not traditionally conducted on specific bills, including from Daily and Woods, though city staff does review bills each month to ensure accuracy.

"Well, they're reviewed every month. They (Daily and Woods) send us a bill every month and the bill is reviewed, but I don't know that anyone is actually going to Daily and Woods' office and auditing the backup behind the billing record. I mean, we don't have staff that do that kind of review of all the invoices the city receives. The city receives hundreds if not thousands of invoices each month. We have no staff to go to each vendor and verify the source records behind the invoices. But the invoices are reviewed before they're paid."

Gosack said the law firms' records have never been called into question previously, adding that Daily and Woods keeps "very meticulous" records.

Asked whether a review of Daily and Woods' billing was necessary in light of Campbell's allegations, Gosack dismissed the notion.

Advertisement:

"I think I would need to see his proof. … If someone is going to make serious allegations, they need to have proof. And a blog post is not proof."

Campbell noted near the conclusion of his website article that his allegations are about more than just a few billing errors.

“At the end of the day, though, if you are a taxpayer in Fort Smith, the big picture here is troubling. You have a private firm, in the capacity of city attorney, who caused the City to get sued by giving them incorrect advice (twice) about how to respond to a FOIA request. Despite a settlement being reached in eight days from filing, the law firm managed to use that suit to bill over $6,700 in November by unnecessarily duplicating work and, apparently, padding the bill with phone calls that didn’t even happen.”

Campbell also noted in the article that he will soon write more about invoices from Daily and Woods to the city.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.8 (23 votes)

Like This Article? Share It!

Comments

Accountability

Of course they keep track of billing - water bills to Van Buren and numerous cost overruns. But after all "it's been going on for years".

Improper billing

Gosack said "I think I would need to see his proof. … If someone is going to make serious allegations, they need to have proof. And a blog post is not proof." As I read this the records he is referring to ARE your records obtained through AFOIA! You want to see his copies of the records you provided? Looks like the city paid almost $7,000 to settle a $300 matter! Makes me wonder what other fees Daily & Woods have billed for.

Holding Hands

I seem to remember city administrator Gosack and the City Attorney holding hands during the scandal that involved using the police department to harass and intimidate citizens collecting signatures during the prepared food tax drama. Has anyone looked at the billing that the city had to pay the legal firm and has anyone looked at the cost of having all of the police department out delivering subpoenas that should have been delivered by the people who are assigned to do that job because this was a flagrant misuse of the police by Gosack and may be a civil rights violation.

Get All The Facts Out

and let the chips fall where they fall because there seems to be a lot more to this story that needs to be made public! The police department should not be used as a political tool or ordered to enforce the heavy hand of a city hall politico.

Why Manage

Why be concerned with management duties when all it takes is to conceal a few details from the BOD and ask for more taxpayer money to cover up more mistakes.

Why oh why

I find it ridiculous but oh so typical that the city/gossack goes more on the defensive instead of saying, yes this is a serious allegation and we are going to look into it. It just got pointed out it you that your good ole boy city attorney firm fit for 40 years may be raking you over the coals, at least act surprised and concerned. Seriously if they are this laissez faire over the legal billing what else are they this lax on. Excepting the waterpark, we already know how lax they are on that. I hate to admit it, and while their plans and schemes are off the mark, maybe some of the folks who scream about the city administration are right and not all is right in this towns administration. By the way how much did Fort Smith pay daily and woods for 2013 in total? Enquiring minds want to know.

Laissez Faire

The plot thickens and the water gets more muddy and when we look at the Convention center overspending, the water department no VB checks cashed policy, the sanitation department monopoly, the coming water park cost over runs, the marshal's museum lack of donations, and now the possible over billing of the city by a legal firm, one may want to question a city managers ability to MANAGE. Wasn't it Director Settle who wanted Kelly fired and Gosack promoted because of his management ability or was it for some other reason? This public spectacle reminds me of the Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman movie the Firm that was a great movie but hope the events in the movie are not happening to the taxpayers of Fort Smith.

Overreach

This is why you people ignore your complaints. You can't focus on the actual provable and egregious wrongs. You have to drag in every teabagging complaint one can think of. The Marshall's museum is far beyond a city deal other than being located in the city and they actually have raised large quantities of funds. The only real issues we have is the water mismanagement and this lack of oversight on the city attorney. Focus on the real stuff and not the wild accusation stuff and you won't lose support faster than a comet.

The lower you go the better it gets

with our city employees. The regular folks seem to be hard working and honest. Is this why they're on the bottom? All there for the public to see...they have got to be kidding! If the FOI says you have the right to see something, why do you have to file a suit in the first place? Even in situations where the city is not in a lawsuit it won't give you information it's supposed to. Ok engineering firms and now a law firm both possibly overpaid....have we already gone past that penny they just got?

Round 'em up, Ride 'em out.....Rawhide !

The job of the "boots on the ground" is to keep the masses quiet whether it's by good service or force. Either way it's to keep a lid on so things don't boil over to jeopardize the rackets at City Hall. Recently though, the Tax Rustlers at the top have gotten sloppy. They haven't covered their tracks, so they're getting followed. We need to call in some forensic auditors....trackers with True Grit.....in the tradition of U.S.Marshals..........Be careful what you wish for !!

Things to ponder

Could the dates be inconsistent because of what day they actually did the billing as opposed to the date of service? Hard to tell without visual proof of what they are accusing the law firm. And why would a law firm put so much information out on their website that they haven't proven yet? This sounds like a smear campaign. It sounds like Matt Campbell is trying to trash the PD and now their legal counsel for anything he can find, no matter how insignificant. Distractions from the original suit perhaps, to keep his name in the papers perhaps? For publicity at the expense of others? A few questions I'm pondering.

A farce

Even if the dates are off, which they aren't based on when billed but when performed, there are still significantly more calls being claimed than what actually happened. Additionally he has actually produced quite a bit of proof however he hasn't filed anything against the firm personally nor is in a court so save the not yet proven complaint. If think Matt who tends to sniff out corruption and misconduct at the highest levels has just found fertile ground in the river valley. He is what is needed around here instead of people memorializing the time they got subpoenaed about a petition and beating that dead horse. He is getting results.

Why Is It

Could it be that the police department is not really at fault and maybe the City Attorney and the City Administrator are really behind this giant scam? People need to be asking a whole lot more questions about what is really going on here because this could be a very serious problem that has been going on for years.

Something Else to Ponder

Is this publicity good for the city of Fort Smith when charges are made that the City Attorney is over billing the taxpayers for legal services and that the City Administrator may be involved? I'm pondering if another attorney would make these charges without sufficient evidence to back up his claim and wondering how much money the city has paid this law firm over the last 5 years. Does anyone have a dollar amount? Its my thinking that some whistle blowers have given Matt Campbell the facts that have enabled him to level these accusations without any fear. It was also reported on The City Wire that the City Administrator had given Flintco of Tulsa a contract to build the water park while knowing that this firm had been investigated by the FBI and charged by the Attorney for paying millions in bribes to get construction contracts. It was also reported that Flintco had paid out 2 million dollars in bribes and the water park was said to be 2 million dollars overpriced. You are right when you say there is much to question and much to ponder.

keep pondering

The original grievance involved theft in 2011 - ignored. wrongful termination - covered up. Retaliation - exposed. discrimination - evidence destroyed. harassment - baseless investigations conducted over and over theft - $50,000 a month to D&W for what? what kind of cop do you want your tax dollars paying for? keep making excuses Daniel you'll be bagging groceries again in no time at all.

Retaliation

So what new? Its the way of Fort Smith City Management under our current administration. If you have the nerve to disagree and ask questions, they go into attack mode and attack the messenger, his family, business, or try to discredit the individual that has every right in the world to ask questions about where and how all of these tax dollars are being spent.

No Pondering or Pandering Necessary

Not much to figure-out here. The good ol' boys got it lock, stock and barrel with no need to pander to anybody. City officials and cronies put on a perfunctory show of municipal action all the while raking-in the pork. The lowly taxpayers are left to "plead" for a few morsels of representation for such mundane things as clean and safe neighborhoods. The humble small businessmen and women are reduced to desperation about the future of their enterprise as they are stuck here in an unmarketable town. Big corporations have used and abuse and abandoned Fort Smith. So we are left with modern day plantation economics...supply side trickling down from the municipal coffers. What we have is an economic drip akin to Chinese water torture.

Party like it's 1929!

I highly doubt it is performed 'pro bono' and the city attorney actually does get paid for sitting through a council meeting for perhaps an hour and reading a 2 minute statement they may have even already heard before. Why not get someone like Ray to simply read what he has already told them? Also why can't the city run calls they pay by the hour on through one phone line so they can keep track of the time? Things certainly seem to be pointing towards 'playing stupid' so they do pay the 'right' people extra.