Ordinance would limit legal fees for officials under investigation

"We don't want someone hiring a New York City attorney for $1,500 an hour," says bill sponsor Garrett Dennis.

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  • | 9:10 p.m. August 21, 2020
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An ordinance will be introduced Aug. 25 to City Council that would limit how much elected and appointed city officials and employees can be reimbursed for legal fees when facing an investigation.

The bill, introduced by Council member Garrett Dennis, would limit the fees to $350 an hour.

 Officials also would have to inform the city within 30 days that they have retained counsel. Failure to meet the deadline would mean reimbursement would require Council approval.

Dennis said city law entitles officials to retain representation paid for by the city while they are being investigated, but cost is an issue.

"We don't want someone hiring a New York City attorney for $1,500 an hour," Dennis said.

Dennis said the because of the investigation into the abandoned sale of JEA, it is likely many city officials have retained legal counsel.

He said the city has already begun to receive bills for legal fees totaling $10,000.

Dennis said he has benefited twice in the past when he was investigated, and later cleared, for Sunshine Law violations.

"I have no ax to grind, this is just about cost," Dennis said.

While paying legal bills for an official under investigation, it goes no further.

“However, nothing in this section authorizes the Office of General Counsel to provide representation in a filed criminal matter on behalf of an accused who has been indicted or otherwise formally charged with a crime,” the proposed ordinance states.