After a review of the contract with the Raleigh firm that provides the town’s legal services, both sides have informally agreed to reduce the monthly retainer and hourly rates it pays the firm.
The Town Council’s finance committee has been looking at the town’s big contracts and started with the one with Smith Moore Leatherwood in August. Committee Co-Chairman Pete Mangum said he didn’t see any problems with the firm’s service but wanted to clarify a few matters.
A survey that the town staff undertook looked at what 63 other North Carolina municipalities pay for their attorney services and found that 13 of those contract monthly with a firm at an average of just under $2,000 a month. Knightdale was paying a monthly retainer of $4,000, raised from $3,474 after fiscal year 2013-14.
After recent discussions with Smith Moore Leatherwood, that monthly retainer is going down to $3,000. Also, the hourly rate for additional billable hours that do not fall under the retainer is going to $300, down from $465 for Clyde Holt’s services and $355 for Beth Trahos’ services. The survey found an average hourly rate of just under $200 for municipalities around the state.
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The $300 hourly rate will also apply to developers whom the town steers toward Smith Moore Leatherwood for items such as work on utility allocation agreements.
Many larger cities and towns in the state, and even a few close to the size of Knightdale, hire full-time attorneys. Full-time staff attorneys included in the survey earn an average of $10,617 per month.
Wendell and Zebulon do not pay a monthly retainer, instead paying just an hourly rate. Wendell pays $205 an hour and Zebulon $170 an hour or $420 an hour for nonroutine items.
Smith Moore Leatherwood charged the town of Knightdale $45,961 for additional billable hours in fiscal year 2015-16, according to town figures, $14,869 for fiscal year 2014-15 and $10,164 in 2013-14. The town also paid the Raleigh firm Satisky & Silverstein $3,297 in fiscal year 2015-16, $680 in fiscal year 2014-15 and $960 in fiscal year 2013-14 for services related to the Land Use Review Board.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826