We requested time sheets and work product produced by Hammond City Council Member William Emerson as well as billing records submitted by the law firm Lewis-Kappes
September 21, 2018-In response to a public record request submitted by Ken Davidson of the NWI Gazette, the attorney for the School City of Hammond appears to suggest that her billing records are confidential and to request them amounts to “trolling.” In addition to the biling records, I requested records relating to work performed by and billing hours of Hammond City Council member William Emerson, Sr. Emerson, Sr. was paid $41,237.44 for a “
grant funded position” according to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) Gateway. While on WJOB discussing Emerson’s position, a caller pointed out that Emerson is on the radio show “Veteran’s Views” every Friday morning. Additionally, Emerson, Sr. is present at numerous City events which would occur during the normal work day. It is unclear if Emerson, Sr. is a full-time employee or not and we requested documentation regarding the grant for his position in order to determine his status. It must be noted that it is entirely possible that the position is part-time or has flexible hours.
As for the attorney billing statements, the Indiana Public Access Counselor (PAC) has long ruled that they are public records subject to disclosure. In 2000, the PAC stated ” . . . it is difficult to conceive of an invoice for legal services containing only information that is subject to the attorney-client communication privilege.” (See 16-FC-16, below). The PAC went on to explain that it is the duty of the responding governmental unit to redact any privileged communications.
Secondly, even if most of the information contained in the billing statements was confidential
under the attorney-client privilege, the Town was obligated to separate the nondisclosable information from the disclosable information in those billing statements and provide a copy of the requested invoices. Indiana Code section 5-14-3-6(a) states that
(i)f a public record contains disclosable and nondisclosable information, the public agency shall,
upon receipt of a request…separate the material that may be disclosed and make it available for
inspection and copying.
In 2010 the PAC discussed whether attorney contracts were disclosable:
The simplest answer to your inquiry is that, generally, invoices and attorney bills are disclosable records, but information contained within those records may be redacted. 10-INF-47
More recently, in a 2018 opinion, the PAC affirmed the long-standing rule in favor of disclosure of attorney invoices:
This Office, through its current occupant and those prior, has opined for years on the issue of attorney invoices and almost all have reached the same conclusion: legal invoices cannot be redacted in their entirety. 18-FC-45
In the present case, we requested billing records from Monica Conrad, Emma Jay and Lewis-Kappes from January 1, 2018 through August 15, 2018. While the PAC has ruled that requests may be limited to 6 months in time, a request for records during the current calender year is not unreasonable. Again, if the Board wanted to comply with the law they should have just provided billing records for the past 6 months.
All of this is particularly egregious since many of these public record requests should not even be necessary. This is a Board that utilizes a consent agenda to vote on millions of dollars in no-bid contracts. The general public would have no way of knowing the cost or scope of the contracts without a public record request. Now the attorney for the Board says I am a troll for asking how much she was paid to provide the information which should have been provided prior to any vote on the matter.2000fc16