Blythewood refuses to reveal MPA lawsuit costs

BLYTHEWOOD – With a growing number of lawsuits flying between the Town of Blythewood, Mayor Bryan Franklin and MPA strategies, the cost for those lawsuits is also most likely growing exponentially, but no one – not even the councilmen, so they say – knows what those costs are, because the Town and Mayor Franklin refuse to release that information to the public.

To be sure that the public can not have access to those costs, in early 2022, the council changed the way they reported attorney fees on the Town’s monthly financial reports. All of the Town’s attorney fees, including the municipal attorney Pete Balthazar’s salary, are now lumped together into one number so that MPA and other lawsuit costs are no longer discernable to the public.

The lump sum of legal fees for the last three fiscal years (FY 2020-21, 2021-22 and through May, 2023) add up to $368,691.35. There is no breakout of the MPA legal fees. The Town hired Black in the spring of 2021 and the first lawsuit was filed in June, 2021.

On Feb. 10, 2023, The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Town Administrator Carroll Williamson for “copies of ledger listings of 1) any and all invoices the Town of Blythewood has received and 2) any and all payments issued by the Town that relate to MPA Strategies, Ashley Hunter, Joseph D. Dickey, Jr., and/or State and Frink Foundation for, but not limited to, any and all legal proceedings, counterclaims, attorneys’ fees, FOI fees, consultants, and/or other affairs. We ask that if there are any notations on the ledger listings or other related responses to this FOI request that would be protected by attorney-client privilege, that those notations be redacted and the requested ledger listings forwarded in response to this FOI.”

The Town officials, under attorney-client privilege, have informed Attorney David Black (who, in turn, informed The Voice on March 24, 2023) that they refuse to hand over those documents.

After noting a number of exceptions that the Town claims allow it to refuse to divulge how much it is spending on the MPA legal matters, the Town’s attorney, David Black, finally wrote that the Town does not keep a ledger listing of these legal expenses, and, therefore, is not required to create such a ledger.

Black also insists that supplying documents associated with the Town’s MPA legal expenses amounts to turning over work product and, therefore, are privileged.

Taylor Smith, an attorney representing the member newspapers of the S.C. Press Association, disagrees with Black’s exceptions.

“An attorney’s invoice to clients can vary in how much information is provided to explain a particular charge,” Taylor said. “What they rarely do, though, is divulge attorney-client protected information back to their client. Assuming these invoices even do have such confidential information, the state’s open record laws (FOIA) allow redaction of the info, not refusal to release the entire record.”


  1. Gus Philpott says

    Obviously, the Town is stone-walling The Voice. Billing invoices and ledger entries are not “work product”. The legal work is, but not the billings. Black knows that. Looks like you’ll have to file a lawsuit to get that information, and I’m sure you’ll ask for your legal fees to be paid by the Town. A judge might just add on fo the obstruction. Voters need to be paying attention at the next election.

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