By DEANNA ROSE
In accordance with the city of Sterling Heights' plan to seek a 5-percent reduction on all contracts from its vendors, city attorney Jeff Bahorski, working on behalf of the law firm O'Reilly Rancilio, P.C., has agreed to a cut in his pay for a new two-year contract. In addition, the firm has agreed to across-the-board reductions in its monthly retainer and hourly rates for legal services provided to the city effective July 1 through June 30, 2012.
"The firm had a long history with the city - in good times and in bad times - and our Board of Directors felt it was appropriate to respond to the city's request in a time of need," Bahorski said.
As a result, the monthly retainer for legal services has been reduced from $47,000 to $44,650 and the hourly rates charged were also lowered. Before the 5-percent reductions, hourly rates for services ranged from $77 per hour to $138 per hour, depending on the type of service and who was providing that service. In the new contract the rates will range from $73 per hour to $131 per hour.
"Like any Michigan-based business, we are struggling to balance the impact of a horrendous economic climate with increasing costs of doing business," Bahorski said. "While it is not easy to make concessions, we firmly believe it is absolutely the right thing to do."
The contract provides the city with general counsel services by O'Reilly Rancilio P.C., which has represented the city for more than 40 years. Bahorski has been involved in representing the city since 2000, and has been the city attorney since 2004. Therefore, Bahorski attends city council meetings to provide legal assistance as needed, and he and his firm also work with city department directors and managers on various projects.
"That covers anything from assisting in economic development issues through land acquisitions," Bahorski said. "In addition, we also defend the city in any litigation against the city or (its) employees."
Sometimes the city needs the legal services of Bahorski and his firm more in one area than another, but what that specific area is changes throughout the years.
"Really, it has evolved as a reflection of what the city is going through," Bahorski said. "Five years ago we would spend more time on zoning issues and redevelopment issues, but that has been changing. Now we are more involved in economic development and the effort to save (the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant)."
In addition, Bahorski said much of the legal services assist Luke Bonner, the city's economic development manager, in helping to attract businesses to the city.
"That's where the need is right now," Bahorski said.
With the reduction in fees, the city will be paying an annual retainer amount that is less than what was charged in 1994-95, and the hourly rates will be less than what was in effect in 2006-07. Additionally, the city's 2009-10 legal services budget of $750,000 was in line with what other similarly-sized municipalities have realized. For instance, Warren's legal services budget for 2009-10 was $1.8 million, Ann Arbor's was $2 million and Livonia's was $665,000.