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Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 01:01 am

City’s legal bills for ex-cops’ defense expected to soar

Plaintiffs’ attorney says this case will cost $1 million

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Legal fees for the City of Springfield to defend three former police officers against a civil lawsuit filed by an alleged drug dealer have likely far exceeded the amount approved by aldermen, according to documents obtained by Illinois Times.

Responding to a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the city provided invoices showing that the total bills paid so far were less than the $100,000 authorized by city council. However, the records cover only work done through April. Since that time, the parties have been engaged in intensive discovery efforts, spending days taking the sworn depositions of numerous witnesses. The city's legal office has not yet forwarded the invoices for May through August to the office of budget and management, and therefore will not release those bills.

The city hired three top-notch private law firms to defend former SPD detectives Paul Carpenter, Jim Graham, and retired Lt. Rickey Davis, who are accused of conspiracy and false arrest by Larry Washington and Jennifer Jenkins. Carpenter and Graham were fired in October 2006 after an Illinois State Police investigation documented numerous infractions of SPD rules and policies. Davis, who retired in January 2007, had been in a supervisory position over the detectives.

In March 2007, when Washington and Jenkins filed suit, Springfield Corporation Counsel Jenifer Johnson said hiring outside attorneys to defend each of the former cops at taxpayers' expense was necessary because the city has a conflict of interest with each of the three. She would not explain what that conflict was. In an e-mail to a reporter, Johnson wrote: "I cannot discuss the nature of the conflict, but trust me, we have one."

Washington and Jenkins were arrested in March 2005, after an early-morning raid of their residence resulted in the seizure of a half-kilo of cocaine. Charges against both were dropped when the evidence SPD used to obtain a search warrant — plastic bags with purported cocaine residue, found in their trash by Carpenter and Graham — tested negative for narcotics.

In May 2007, the city council passed an ordinance authorizing payments up to $25,000 each to the firms of Brown, Hay & Stephens and Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen, representing Carpenter and Graham respectively, and Hinshaw & Culbertson, representing Davis. A few months later, the council amended the ordinance to double the allocation for Davis' attorneys to $50,000.

Carpenter's attorney, Thomas Schanzle-Haskins, had billed the city $34,634.10 through April — more than $9,000 above the approved amount. Graham's attorneys, Frederick P. Velde and Theresa M. Powell, had billed $12,389, and Davis' attorneys, Andrew Ramage and Charles Schmadeke, had billed $23,040. Ken Crutcher, director of the city's office of budget and management, says those invoices have already been paid.

But those invoices don't include the fees that have accumulated during depositions, which began in June. The bills for work done after April have not yet landed on Crutcher's desk, and have not been paid.

"The bills are not releaseable until they have been processed for payment," Crutcher says. "They might be in dispute or something like that. I have not discussed it with [Johnson]."

Washington's attorney, Gregory E. Kulis of Chicago, estimates that the tab for those hours will exceed a quarter-million dollars, based on multiplying the time spent in depositions by the $175-per-hour rate of each of the attorneys.

"It's a crazy case. I'm going to spend a million dollars of their money. Not me — they're going to spend it," says Kulis. "They've got quality lawyers representing a bunch of officers that state police has said are bad cops. What the city is doing is taking good taxpayer money to defend bad officers."

The ISP probe cited by Kulis was prompted by a 20-page complaint filed March 2, 2005 by then-Sgt. Ron Vose. The raid on Washington's residence happened two weeks later; therefore, the incident was not included in the ISP's 2,300-page investigative report — a document that has never been made public.

Other officers named as defendants in the lawsuit are Detectives Steve Walsh and J.T. Wooldridge, and retired Deputy Chief William Rouse. They are represented by two of the city's staff attorneys, Megan Morgan and Lucretia Pitts.

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.

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