Franklin continues to hide Town’s expenses for MPA lawsuits

Town’s Legal Expenses Could Be Approaching $800,000

BLYTHEWOOD – After almost three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees paid to attorneys and consultants by the Town government for lawsuits involving Mayor Bryan Franklin and marketing firm MPA Strategies, Franklin continues to prohibit the Town’s attorneys from revealing to the public, the media and even some town council members how much the town has spent.

In a response to The Voice’s most recent of numerous Freedom of Information requests for cancelled checks, invoices and legers that could document how much the Town government has spent on the MPA legal matters, attorney David Black of Maynard Nexsen, who represents both the Town and Franklin in the ongoing MPA legal matters, did not provide those documents. Instead, he emailed documentation for a total $35,340 for three attorneys who do work for the town but may or may not do much or any work on the MPA/Town legal matters.  Those three are Pete Balthazar, the town’s current municipal attorney, for expenses in 2023; former municipal attorney Ginny DuPont for about nine months of work in 2022; and former municipal attorney Shannon Burnett for only one year ending in 2022. Burnett also works on the MPA/Town legal matters for the Town and Franklin, but no documentation for that work was included.

No expenses were included for the four main outside attorneys who represent the Town and Franklin. Those attorneys are: Andrew Lindeman, representing the Town; David Black (Maynard Nexsen) representing both the Town and Franklin; Alexandre Austin (Maynard Nexsen) representing the Town; and David Morrison representing Franklin.

According to budget information on the Town’s website, it spent approximately $152,500 on outside legal expenses in FY 2021-22 and $200,000 in FY 2022-23. Including in those amounts is $89,445.43 in MPA legal expenses that is available online on the Town’s Account Quick-Report for January – December 2021 and also provided to the Voice last year by Black.

The Town officials have refused to reveal how much of that expense is for legal issues related to MPA Strategies.

In an interview immediately following a February, 2022 council meeting, Councilman Rich McKenrick told The Voice he believed that outside counsel David Black is the payee for most of the Town’s outside legal expenses. Black heads up the Town’s legal team for the two MPA Strategies lawsuits and the Town’s countersuit.

“Because they (Franklin and Town Administrator Carroll Williamson) won’t release [a breakdown], we have to assume that 100 percent of the outside legal fees went to Black [for MPA],” McKenrick said.

In Black’s Oct. 10 2023 FOIA response to The Voice, Black wrote: “…as you are aware, the Town has spent more than $200,000 defending Ms. Hunter’s baseless lawsuits.”

According to the FY 2021-22 and FY 2022-23 budgets, the Town has spent at least $300,000 and has budgeted $500,000 more for outside attorneys for 2023-24, with a potential of spending $800,000 by the end of this fiscal year.

In a Facebook comment on Tuesday of this week, Franklin said he has, from the beginning, been ready to settle the legal matters with MPA. However, the majority of council (Franklin, Eddie Baughman and Rich McKenrick) has continued to vote to continue the lawsuits based, they say, on their attorney’s advice.

According to a motion made by McKenrick and passed by the council majority on May 12, 2022, council actually authorized Franklin to take any action whatsoever in regard to the Town’s legal proceedings with MPA and others, including The Voice.

That motion, approved by council, reads: “This council affirms and approves all actions taken on behalf of the Town by the mayor, Carroll Williamson and on behalf of the Town by its attorney Shannon Burnett and Nexsen Pruet Law Firm regarding all matters related to MPA Strategies, Ashley Hunter, State and Frink, Donald Brock, The Voice, and Barbara Ball et al and that such representation by and hiring of such attorneys is hereby reaffirmed and shall continue until further resolutions are made including any claims and counter claims filed, answered, appealed or any ancillary issues.”

Instead of being transparent about his and the Town’s expenses regarding MPA legal matters, Franklin has the authority – given by council – to reveal how much the Town has spent on legal costs with MPA.

He has so far chosen not to reveal the costs to the public and even to some of his fellow council members.

NOTE: The story said, “No expenses were included for the four main outside attorneys who represent the Town and Franklin.” There are five attorneys, not four. Attorney Emily Ruth Wayne (representing the Town of Blythewood) was inadvertently left off the list. 10/28/23

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