The retainer for Garganese, Weiss, and D’Agresta, the firm that represents the city of Palm Coast, will rise from $22,500 a month to $25,875 a month.
The law firm that represents the city of Palm Coast is getting a 15% raise.
The Palm Coast City Council voted unanimously at an Oct. 20 meeting to amend the contract for the law firm of Garganese, Weiss, and D’Agresta to raise the firm's retainer from $22,500 per month to $25,875 per month, and to raise the hourly fee for services provided outside of the retainer from $150 to $175.
"First and foremost, I want a city attorney that I can trust," Mayor Jon Netts said at the meeting. "Are there less expensive attorneys out there? Yes ... and we've dealt with some of them. If I wanted open heart surgery, I'm not going to shop around for the best price; I'm going to shop around for the best doctor."
Councilman Steve Nobile, who had challenged the raise when it first came before the board at a council workshop a week before — asking about the possibility of shopping around for a better price — didn't question it at the Oct. 20 meeting.
"Are there less expensive attorneys out there? Yes ... and we've dealt with some of them. If I wanted open heart surgery, I'm not going to shop around for the best price; I'm going to shop around for the best doctor."
—Jon Netts, mayor
Bill Reischmann, the Garganese, Weiss, and D’Agresta attorney who attends the City Council meetings, said at the meeting that the firm had proposed the change because after it switched from a flat $150 an hour rate when it first contracted with the city in 2008 to a retainer system in 2009, the amount the firm is paid per hour of work has dropped considerably.
"In 2008, we were being paid at $150 an hour, and that was the last time we receieved compensation at $150 an hour," he said.
He showed council members a chart depicting how much money the firm had made per hour of work for the city over the past four years: $117 per hour this past year, $90 the year before, $108 the year before that, and $128 the year before that.
Reischmann is the firm's most visible employee in Palm Coast city government, but he emphasized that the firm works for the city as a team, providing lawyers who specialize in subjects like construction litigation, contracts, and land development.
Netts said the advantage of a retainer system, over a simple hourly rate, is that it normalizes costs. "If you weren't working under a retainer system, your billing would bounce around, and it's more difficut to plan for," he said. "So I think this is a reasonable approach to providing the services."