published Monday, February 28th, 2011

Billings put East Ridge city attorney on hot seat


by Chris Carroll

IF YOU GO

The East Ridge City Council meets at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall to discuss the city attorney’s contract.

Reacting to what he called “out of line” invoices, East Ridge Councilman Jim Bethune said he will move to terminate City Attorney John Anderson at tonight’s called meeting.

“It’s nothing personal against Mr. Anderson,” Bethune said. “He thinks it is. He hardly even speaks to me. But it’s money. That’s all it is.”

Anderson, who works as East Ridge’s part-time attorney, is on pace to bill more than his $90,000 retainer this fiscal year, which ends June 30. He did not respond to a detailed phone message left Friday.

Bethune confirmed invoices showing Anderson charged East Ridge for parking, phone calls, postage and meals.

“I think I can get a good full-time attorney for $90,000,” Bethune said. “There’s no question.”

Anderson made $132,000 in fiscal year 2009-10, collecting $14,000 more than East Ridge budgeted, city records show.

In East Ridge, a called meeting must occur when two or more councilmen want one. Denny Manning joined Bethune in requesting the Anderson-related meeting, but he declined to discuss his intentions on the record Friday afternoon.

Mayor Brent Lambert could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Vice Mayor Larry Sewell said he hopes to find a “happy medium” where the council could persuade Anderson to work for less. He said he’s leaning against Bethune’s motion to terminate.

“John’s a good attorney,” he said.

Councilman Darwin Branam, who maintains a residence in Florida, said he’s not sure whether he will attend tonight’s meeting because he may be out of town.

“We could have a little more time to look at everything in the budget and everything that has been charged,” he said. “But Mr. Bethune wanted to do this.”

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