Board of Estimates approves Additional funds for legal fees

Approval brings cost of case to over $1 million

September 14, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore taxpayers will pay an additional $83,221 - for a total of $1 million - in a federal civil case involving former Public Works Director George G. Balog and two top aides accused of retaliating against two whistle-blowers.

The city Board of Estimates unanimously approved yesterday the payment to cover the final legal fees for three outside attorneys who defended Balog, Solid Waste Bureau Chief Leonard H. Addison and Bureau of General Services Chief Robert F. Guston, who was eventually dropped from the case.

"I'm not happy," City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said before yesterday's meeting. "I'm very unhappy."

Balog, Addison and Guston have left the department, and the Law Department has dropped its intent to appeal the federal ruling, bringing the four-year case to a close.

Because Balog and his aides were city employees, the law department said that a state law required the city to defend them. The city was named in the suit, forcing it to hire outside attorneys for the three.

A federal jury in June determined that Balog and Addison retaliated against two public works managers who testified about problems with a 1995 repair to the Quarantine Road Landfill. The eight-member federal jury awarded the two, Jeanne Robinson and David Marc, $192,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and ordered the city to pay their legal fees.

The combination of those costs was $386,444. In addition, the city agreed earlier this year to spend up to $550,000 to defend the public works officials. With the $83,221 approved yesterday, the total exceeds $1 million.

The request approved yesterday covers final trial fees and expenses for the attorneys, who are each charging $150 an hour. The city hired attorney Benjamin W. Hahn to represent Balog, Paul D. Shelton to defend Addison and H. Mark Stichel to handle Guston's case.

The city was responsible for paying what the jury determined was Robinson's and Marc's lost compensation. Balog, who retired in January, was forced to personally pay $81,400 in punitive damages.

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