Grisham legal fees for work cost city $14,670

Project included city policy review

JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 12/11/15

The Cleveland City Council greatly underestimated the amount of time it would take a consultant, attorney J. Greg Grisham of Leitner, Williams, Dooley, Napolitan PLLC, to review and recommend …

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Grisham legal fees for work cost city $14,670

Project included city policy review

Posted

The Cleveland City Council greatly underestimated the amount of time it would take a consultant, attorney J. Greg Grisham of Leitner, Williams, Dooley, Napolitan PLLC, to review and recommend changes to the city personnel policy.

At a September City Council meeting, Councilman Richard Banks estimated it would take 10 hours. Invoices to the city for services in September and October show Grisham spent 38 hours working on the project, with additional time logged by associates in researching particular items for Grisham.

Total cost to the city, including gas reimbursements, was $14,670. Invoices to the city list $6,517 for work completed in September and $8,152 for work completed in October.

This time was spent reviewing emails from City Manager Janice Casteel addressing specific elements of the policy, such as the appeals process, research, reviewing Municipal Technical Advisory Service information pertaining to suggested changes, reviewing recommended changes to the policy from city staff and the Council and drafting revised copies of the personnel manual.

Grisham charged 51 cents a mile when he traveled to Cleveland to present to the City Council and for a meeting with city consultant Larry Wallace in Chattanooga. Wallace had been appointed to serve as a liaison between the City Council and Grisham after finishing his work as police consultant.

Grisham’s office is in Nashville.

The City Council had anticipated hiring Grisham for $225 per hour and that is what was charged.

A vote on the personnel policy is expected at the Cleveland City Council’s 3 p.m. Monday meeting. The Council will be given two versions of the policy to choose from —one with an appeals hearing process and the other without. An overall revision of the personnel policy has not been completed since 1993, although numerous sections have been updated.

The journey to a revised policy began a year ago, when Casteel asked department heads and the human resources committee for recommendations.

The Council hired Grisham to review the policy in the hopes he would catch anything that could become a legal concern in the future.

Grisham is recommending the entire policy be reviewed once a year. As a part of this review, department heads would review job descriptions for employees, “to ensure that the job description accurately reflects the actual duties performed by employees in each position.” If adopted, the revised personnel policy would state specifically that “all employees of the city are considered at-will employees.”

The revised personnel policy also calls for a review of the city’s pay plan every five years.

Changes to the probationary period for city employees, the harassment policy, nepotism policy, bereavement pay, Family and Medical Leave Act policy, jury duty, career development and training, as well as several benefits and insurance-related polices, are being recommended.

A policy adding background and reference checks as a part of the hiring process is also a part of the revisions.

“In order to reward employees who do not abuse sick leave, sick leave incentive pay will be paid to employees each year in December. Sick leave incentive pay will be accrued monthly at a rate of $25 per month for each month no sick leave is taken,” the revised policy states.

The policy changes outline that administrative leave without pay can be granted for sickness and disability needs, or used when an employee is under investigation.

A section is added to give employees leave time of up to three hours in order to vote in elections.

In addition to reviewing the personnel manual, Grisham served as a consultant in the appeal of former police officer Edwin Millan.

Grisham represented the city in the appeals hearing, which attorney Mark Travis heard and ruled upon. Travis charged about $5,000 for his work on the appeal. The cost for Grisham’s work on this was $6,426. This includes nearly 32 hours of work in research, communications with city staff and travel. The cost also includes mileage reimbursement and a hotel stay on the hearing day.

Grisham also gave the city advice on how to proceed if former Public Works employee Jason O’Daniel appealed his termination. O’Daniel was let go in October. Casteel said city staff thought he might appeal and wanted to be ready. However, O’Daniel did not appeal. Grisham’s work on the issue involved reviewing emails to be sent to O’Daniel and researching the city’s past appeals.

The Cleveland City Council will meet Monday in the Municipal Building on Church Street.

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