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An inquiry by The Schilling Show regarding the hourly rate the city is paying outside attorney, Tom Wolf, has been met with a veil of secrecy and obfuscation.

Mr. Wolf represents Charlottesville City in its quest to confiscate the Water Street Garage from Mark Brown and his entity, the Charlottesville Parking Center (CPC), by force of eminent domain. In the expansive media coverage of this issue, Wolf’s salary, paid for by Charlottesville taxpayers, was undisclosed.

On June 30, The Schilling Show filed the following FOIA request:

From: Schilling Show
Subject: FOIA: Contract for Attorney Wolf
Date: June 30, 2016 at 07:25:53 PM EDT
To: “Dickler, Miriam”

Hi Miriam,

Can you please provide me with a digital copy of the contract or agreement between the city and Attorney Tom Wolf?

The city replied with a copy of a FOIA response letter sent to C-ville reporter, Lisa Provence, who also had requested Wolf’s contract. While the document was provided the hourly rate was redacted:

From: “Brown, Craig”
Subject: FOIA Request
Date: June 15, 2016 at 05:00:37 PM EDT
To: “Provence, Lisa”

Lisa:

Attached is a redacted version of the engagement letter between the City and LeClair Ryan.  As you will see the letter is a confidential attorney-client privileged communication, which is exempt from mandatory disclosure under FOIA pursuant to Virginia Code sec. 2.2-3705.1 (2).  I am providing you with a redacted version of the letter, and acknowledge that the hourly rates the City is being charged by the firm have been deleted.

I also told you by phone that I would provide you with the amount the City has paid LeClair Ryan for attorney fees and costs as a result of the lawsuits filed by CPC.  As of April 30 (as of this writing we have not received a bill for May) that amount is $11,593.42.   Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this response.

Craig Brown
City Attorney

In a July 6 interview with The Schilling Show, Charlottesville City Councilor, Bob Fenwick, denied personal knowledge of Attorney Wolf’s hourly rate. He also defended the city’s secrecy, expressing concern over Mr. Wolf’s future hourly earnings potential were the city to disclose their negotiated rate with Wolf.

Responding to Fenwick’s interview, in a July 8 appearance on The Schilling Show, CPC principal, Mark Brown, stated he believed that Tom Wolf was receiving $560 per hour for his efforts on behalf of the city. That information, however, could not be independently confirmed.

Upon review of the City’s FOIA response, Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, had serious concerns:

From: Megan Rhyne
Subject: Re: FOIA: Contract for Attorney Wolf
Date: July 1, 2016 at 03:45:31 PM EDT
To: Schilling Show

They’re wrong, in my opinion, Rob. And the FOIA Council and the AG agree.

Here’s the FOIA Council opinion: http://www.opengovva.org/foi-opinions/ao-10-04

And the AG’s opinion: http://www.opengovva.org/node/417

The Schilling Show is pursuing recourse against Charlottesville City Hall in what appears to be unlawful manipulation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

In the mean time, the city’s sordid history of FOIA transgressions and public document destruction speaks volumes about Charlottesville City Hall’s disdain for the public and the City Council’s spurious claims to “open and transparent” government.

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