The Town Council’s finance committee is taking a look at the town’s financial relationship with Smith Moore Leatherwood, the Raleigh law firm that provides Knightdale with legal representation.
Committee Co-Chairman Pete Mangum said at the committee’s Aug. 17 meeting that he didn’t see any issues with the firm’s service, but wanted to look at the relationship to clarify a few matters. The committee plans to take a look at all the town’s major contracts and started with the attorney contract because it is first alphabetically.
The agreement engaging the firm has not been updated since 2014, leading the council to conclude that town staff should conduct a study of nearby municipalities to look at their handling of legal fees, including how much they pay for a retainer. Knightdale pays a monthly retainer of $4,000, which was raised from $3,474 after fiscal year 2013-14.
The firm also charges additional billable hours for matters that do not fall under the retainer, and Mangum said he would like to get a better idea of what services the retainer covers and what services cost the town additional fees. The engagement letter with the firm stipulates that Smith Leatherwood Moore handle all legal matters for which it has the necessary experience and background.
The firm charged additional billable hours for $45,961 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 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.
The retainer agreement specifies that Smith Leatherwood Moore “shall not undertake any new matter for the Town not covered by the basic monthly retainer fee ... until such undertaking has been discussed with and approved by the Town Manager.”
Committee Co-Chairman Mike Chalk said the way he read the agreement, anything other than consultation with the mayor, Town Council members or department heads or attending council meetings, the annual council retreat and one LURB meeting per month would constitute additional billable hours.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826