By Tiffany Pelt - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Nearly $2 million in taxpayer dollars is being spent on legal bills to defend city officials in an ongoing lawsuit.
In February 2008, businessman Ted Parker brought a lawsuit against city officials for defamation of character and tortuous interference with his business. The city publicly claimed Parker owes taxpayers millions of dollars, while Parker claims the city is wrong and went after him for political reasons.
In detail, 230 pages of documents and receipts outline the attorney's expenses on food travel, and hotel accommodations as they go back and forth to Dallas representing the city officials in the lawsuit.
Council member Paul R. Beane requested those documents as well. "I have not had a chance to total them all up, but I understand they're on the far side of a million and half dollars. I personally believe that money could be used for much more worthwhile endeavors," he said.
Browsing through the documents, many transactions seem reasonable like a dinner for six people costing $80. Some are even cheaper like receipts for McDonalds and Taco Bell, both under $7. But occasionally you come across big bucks being spent on some big steaks.
In a meal for four, $250 was spent on prime rib eyes and filet mignon. "I'll say this, a dinner of four for $200 - they're not eating at the restaurants that I frequent. So it does seem a little bit extreme," said Beane.
Another receipt shows more than $100 for a dinner for three, and some taxpayer money was even spent on nachos and beer on two different occasions while waiting at the airport.
These questionable expenses bring about the question of whether or not these attorneys' expenses should be paid for by the city when the city officials are being sued as private individuals.
When asked that very question Mayor Tom Martin responded over the phone, "paying to defend city employees for things they do related to their city duties is the right thing to do." He went on to say the employees have the right to choose the attorney they want, and it's up to each attorney "to do what's right.
Councilmen Beane is just ready for the legal battle to end. "I said more than two years ago, I think it's time to settle this case and move forward," he said.
NewsChannel 11 left messages for most of the attorneys who billed the city for these expenses but so far none have responded.
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