An old joke about lawyers concerns Saint Peter and Abe the attorney who was at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. Saint Peter was checking the credentials of Abe to determine if he was eligible to be admitted. After the usual questions about full name, address, mother’s maiden name, and social security number, Saint Peter inquired about Abe’s age, noting that Abe looked much younger than Saint Peter’s records reflected.
Abe said he was fifty; Saint Peter indicated his records showed he was seventy five. Abe was shocked, and told Saint Peter that he must be wrong. Abe admitted he had left his birth certificate, driver’s license and passport on earth. Abe asked what records that Saint Peter had checked to determine his age. When Saint Peter advised Abe that he had checked Abe’s billing records to his clients Abe turned around dismayed. End of story.
Attorney billing statements rarely invoke joy with their clients; those sent to public agencies sometimes (often?) do not get close scrutiny. However Caddo Levee Board member Carolyn Prator has taken the time to review invoices from December 1, 2009 through May 6, 2013 from the Board’s long time attorney, Perry Pringle. The total amount of the invoices exceeds $180,000 for this forty-one month period; the monthly average paid for legal services to Perry was in excess of $4,500. Pringle bills the Board $175 per hour in .25 hour increments.
Prator has questioned many charges by Pringle – including the number of hours charged for travel time, time to review newsletters and emails to attend meetings, emails concerning group pictures of staff/levee board and attendance for pictures; travel and participation in levee inspections, travel and attendance to an employee appreciation luncheon and a retirement event as well as time to explain his billing for his services.
Prator was especially concerned over hours charged by Pringle to prepare his law partner for a Board meeting that Pringle could not attend, and then for hours expended by the partner to not only attend the meeting but also to prepare a memo to Pringle on what happened at the meeting (3.0 hours for memos). She was also disappointed in his billing for a meeting with her and other board members regarding the scope of his duties as legal counsel for the Levee District.
Carolyn Prator has openly criticized the Levee Board for recently increasing the ad valorem tax millage when the district has a surplus in excess of $30 million. Prator says she is “concerned about excessive spending of public moneys.” She believes Craig Windham, the Board’s executive director, has failed to carefully review the invoices and recognize what she believes have been excessive legal fees.
Prator will push her cause, however she concedes that she is only one out of seven on the Levee Board.