Q: How many attorneys have received money from St. Pete Beach over the past five years? Why does the city have different attorneys not associated with city attorney Mike Davis' firm? What has the city spent, in total, on attorneys this year and last fiscal year?
A: We asked the St. Pete Beach city manager Mike Bonfield to explain this.
“Bryant Miller Olive handles the vast majority of the city’s work and all the litigation relating to the comprehensive plan,” he said. Bryant Miller Olive, based in Tampa, does use other attorneys in their firm who live in other areas of Florida “that they feel are best in a particular area.” This includes Mike Davis, Susan Churuti, Suzanne Van Wyk and David Miller.
Attorneys Mike Davis and Susan Churuti frequently represent the city during commission meetings and workshops. Davis formerly worked as the city attorney for St. Petersburg; prior to joining Bryant Miller Olive, Churuti worked as the county attorney for Pinellas. The county commission fired Churuti for her role in the 2007 property appraiser land deal scandal involving former property appraiser Jim Smith.
In areas where the Bryant Miller Olive has a conflict of interest, attorneys Mike Connelly and Tom Trask represent the city. For labor an pension issues the city uses Reynolds Allen and Jim Linn.
As for the legal costs, here’s how much the city has spent over the past three years:
This fiscal year to date (which ends in September), St. Pete Beach has spent just over $240,000 on legal fees. In 2010 it spent roughly $550,000; in 2009, $360,000; and in 2008, $256,000 (The Gabber rounded these figures rounded to the nearest thousand dollars.)