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County’s legal fees continue to climb
FB DCN Government County

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve a request for increased legal funding for 2019. The request was for an additional $250,000, bringing the total 2019 budget up to $410,413.

According to the official request, the reason for the drastic increase is an “increased need for legal services, as well as costs for clearing up outstanding issues.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said Monday morning that “there were a lot of transition costs” at the beginning of the year as the county moved from in-house counsel Monroe Lynn Frey III to utilizing the firm Jarrard & Davis.

The Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to hire Frey in 2017. According to reports at the time, the three commissioners who voted to approve the motion did so in an attempt to lessen the amount of money the county was paying in legal fees. The 2017 budget for legal fees was around $232,000.

The new firm contracted by the county, Jarrard & Davis, is known for representing counties and municipal governments across Georgia. According to their website, they currently represent Forsyth County, Barrow County, Cherokee County, Jackson County, Greene County, Newton County, the Cherokee County Airport Authority, and the City of Milton.

During the public hearing at Thursday’s voting session, longtime county counsel Joey Homans, who was replaced by Frey, stood up to make a statement.

“The comment that (the act of hiring Frey to replace him as county counsel) was done to save the taxpayers money, I took it as an attack on my integrity and my character...that I was gouging or overcharging. The fact that the legal fees now are twice what they were, I submit absolve me of that.”

“It sticks with you,” Homan added, of the articles and public statements claiming that he was replaced because of the amount of money he was charging. “I appreciated Commissioner Gaines and Chairman Thurmond contacting me after that, two years ago, thanking me for my service, but I just couldn’t sleep until I made this statement to y’all that I took that as an attack on my character and my integrity, and I submit that what you’re paying for legal fees now for very competent legal counsel reflects that there was no overcharging, there was no gouging, and in fact, now the taxpayers are paying for it.”