TARPON SPRINGS — The Tarpon Springs City Commission unanimously agreed to a new two-year agreement with City Attorney James Yacavone that details what will be covered under a $72,000 yearly retainer.
"I'm trying to address their concerns about what is billable and what isn't," Yacavone said before Tuesday's commission meeting.
"In good faith from my office, I'm trying to get those (legal) bills down and (clarify) the understanding we have now. Unless there is significant litigation or a huge ordinance, the bills are going to stay right where they are."
The amount the city was spending on attorney's fees became a point of contention for some commissioners last year. During the 2009 fiscal year, the city paid $396,914 in attorney fees, which included costs for Yacavone and other attorneys' fees as well.
Commissioner Jeff Larsen sent City Manager Mark LeCouris a letter inquiring about all the legal services that fell under the $76,127 retainer the city paid to Yacavone last year. Larsen was concerned that there was a gray area about what was billable and what wasn't. The new contract clarifies that.
The new $72,000 retainer will cover all commission meetings and all inquiries by commissioners and the city's staff. It will include drafting ordinances, resolutions and contracts and preparing development agreements.
Unless needed, an attorney will not staff other city board meetings, including the Planning and Zoning Board. If he is needed for any of those meetings, Yacavone will be paid $125 an hour and $75 an hour for paralegal services.
Larsen said he supports the new agreement.
During Tuesday night's discussion, Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said he was pleased with Yacavone's work.
"The agreement clarifies what services are going to be in the retainer and the ones that will not," Alahouzos said. "I am very satisfied with the services you provide for the city and I look forward to working with you."
There was some initial concern about a potential conflict if the City Commission and the Planning and Zoning Board use the same attorney. But Mayor David Archie said the concern has no validity.
"We are not in an adversarial relationship," Archie said of the two boards. "We are on the same side. I don't see the need to have a different attorney."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes or (727) 445-4174.