The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Resident Questions City Attorney Fees

Megan McNeill, For the Hancock County Journal-Pilot

A La Harpe resident believes the city is being nickeled-and-dimed by its city attorney.

Dave Clover has done research regarding how much other cities pay for legal services.

"The mean average salary for a city attorney is anywhere from $32 to $55 an hour," Clover told the city council at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday. "We're paying $125."

City Attorney Diane Diestler, who was not at the meeting, said Tuesday the rate of pay is "a matter between the attorney and the municipality that hires him or her."

"It depends on amount of work you expect and the type of situation you're dealing with," she said. "I deal with seven municipalities, and I bill them all $125 an hour.

"When they get a municipal attorney with my experience, to me $125 is actually on the low end."

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Clover obtained bills from Diestler to the City of LaHarpe. He shared copies with the council and media.

"I'm kind of wondering if any of you (on the council) look at (the bills) before you pay them," he said. "We paid the lawyer $3,700 in six weeks ... a lot of it, if you read over her charges, happen to be things that I think the councilmen or the mayor should be doing - not the attorney."

The invoice included the procurement of a port-a-potty for the city park during farmers market, according to Clover.

"We're going to pay $125 an hour for the attorney to get a port-a-potty?" he asked the council.

"Think about it. We're not made of money."

Diestler, who was not at the meeting, said Tuesday that there had been discussion at the city council meeting regarding how much city employees could spend to retain certain services and items. Diestler was clarifying whether council approval was needed before renting the port-a-potty.'