TV-6 Investigates: Geneseo City Attorney Controversy - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

TV-6 Investigates: Geneseo City Attorney Controversy

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$400,000.

That's how much Geneseo taxpayers have paid in attorney's fees over the last five years.

The majority of that money has gone to a Chicago law firm, not the city attorney.

TV-6 Investigates has been going through the bills, after questions were raised about how much of that legal work needed to be outsourced.

The Chicago law firm Ancel Glink has been doing lots of work for the city.

It has advised on police negotiations, health insurance grievances, and electrical worker negotiations.

It has made $281,000 from the city.

Half of its work fell into a category the law firm billed as miscellaneous.

The work included preparing city ordinances, reviewing freedom of information act requests, and taking phone calls with aldermen.

Some are asking if that type of work is worth $210 an hour.

"I have mixed feelings about that, I feel that most of it ought to be able to be taken care of here," says Geneseo taxpayer Beth Naugle.

She hasn't had a lot of experience with lawyers, but she believes the city may be spending more than it should.

"I would like to see not so much money being spent, for the out of town lawyer," says Naugle.

That's a feeling new Mayor Nadine Palmgren shares.

"I believe it's excessive money, I think it has gone overboard, the charges are excessive," says Palmgren.

She says city leaders and employees need to stop calling the Chicago law firm for every question. The city has its own lawyer. It has been the same guy for 34 years.

"Instead of aldermen and others going through the city attorney first, they would go immediately to Ancel and Glink which is a high end expense for the city when we already have someone on retainer," says Palmgren.

The city tripled its legal bill over the last five years. City attorney Virgil Thurman earned $114,000. At the same time Ancel Glink earned $281,000 for work on some issues the mayor says were not necessary.

"We don't need a law firm from Chicago to come down and do mundane things," says Palmgren.

Both the mayor and city attorney want the city to consult Thurman first, rather than calling Ancel Glink and running up an extra bill.

"I don't think it's legal that, I'm must going to say it, that three councilman call an outside attorney and actually hire that attorney for city purposes," says city attorney Virgil Thurman.

Alderman Keith Kennett believes that's shortsighted.

"I think that it's very wise for the city to have access to more than one legal opinion," says Kennett.

He says the large bills shouldn't be a cause of concern. Rather, they're an investment in good legal advice.

"I'm comfortable that those are more than offset by what was saved from paying potential penalties and other legal things that we were involved in," says Kennett.

The city will discuss a proposal to keep Ancel Glink as a second city attorney at its next meeting. The legality and cost of that proposal is unclear.

It's also unclear if the city ever approved a contract with Ancel Glink for its legal services.

A freedom of information act request filed with the city only returned a proposal for legal services from 2012.

TV-6 Investigates has asked the city to see if Ancel Glink has any official document in its files.

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