by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Contracts between the the city of Logansport, Logansport Municipal Utilities and the consultants hired to assist with the city’s power plant project were released to a Logansport attorney last month, revealing information about out-of-state meetings and estimated pay for each of the consultants’ services.
The proposed plant, which would be powered by refuse-derived fuel, is currently under negotiation between the city and Boca-Raton, Fla.-based Pyrolyzer LLC.
The contracts were released to Jim Brugh, a Logansport attorney whose client Julie Kitchell sued Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin and city council this spring alleging the administration began the negotiating process with Pyrolyzer before authorizing itself to do so. The case was argued before the Indiana Supreme Court earlier this month, but a decision has yet to be made.
The released agreements are between the city, LMU and William-Lynn-James, an Indianapolis firm that has recruited a team of consultants from across North America. To date, the city council has approved allocations totaling more than $1.5 million to the firm, an amount Franklin says he is planning to get reimbursed through the plant negotiations.
The contracts were released by John Molitor, an attorney working as special counsel for the city, after Indiana Public Access Counselor Joseph Hoage issued an informal opinion stating the documents should be disclosed.
In his opinion, Hoage sided with Brugh’s disagreement with Molitor that the consultants’ names and rates of pay were not trade secrets because the consultants “have previously been identified by the city and/or firm and have testified in related public hearings.”
Hoage added the consultants “advertise for work in their market and there is nothing proprietary what the firm chooses to pay them.”
Hoage, like Brugh, also contested Molitor’s claims that the contracts consist of documents the state’s Access to Public Records Act allows agencies to withhold, like diaries, journals, or a record, if publicly disclosed, that “would have a reasonable likelihood of threatening public safety by exposing a vulnerability to terrorist attack.”
The contracts include information on meetings in Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C.
Garry Petersen, senior economist at William-Lynn-James and project director of the power plant project the firm was hired to assist Logansport with, indicated that while an estimated timeline states these meetings already occurred, not all of them have.
“Some of it hasn’t,” he said. “I can’t discuss where we travel before it happens. After, we can.”
Petersen went on to call the contract “a living document.”
“It’s variable,” he said. “It gives us the latitude to shift direction. It moves around as the project moves around. [Franklin and LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman] can add and subtract things that will impact costs and performance.
“We always stay within the rule of law and we always stay within our scope. There is some travel. Under the expanded part of that contract, they went to Berlin and Toronto.”
Franklin confirmed the Atlanta meeting took place. He said he did not attend but that it was between the consultants and a possible vendor.
An estimated budget in the contract between the city and the firm for the negotiating phase of the project states $41,000 for special counsel will go to Brian Bosma, Indiana Speaker of the House and a partner at Kroger Gardis & Regas LLP, an Indianapolis law firm.
A request for comment from Bosma was returned by an email from Petersen with a citation of Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which guides attorneys. One of the rules states, “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent.”
Petersen stated in the email that Bosma’s, along with the rest of the team members’ contracts, are between themselves and the firm, not themselves, the city and LMU.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK