When the Legislature tapped Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP to answer questions surrounding the investigation of alleged sexually inappropriate behavior by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the financial cost of the work was apparently not considered.
On May 21, the Taft law firm sent a letter to the Legislative Services Agency describing the work it would do for the agency in connection with the investigation. The document states it will represent LSA in providing employment advice, and also details the client responsibilities.
However, the contract letter does not include a cost estimate for firm’s work and does not indicate that a cap on its fees has been set. Instead, the document states, “The fees and costs relating to this engagement are not predictable. Accordingly, we have made no commitment to you concerning the maximum fees and costs which you may incur.”
Taft was hired by the LSA to oversee the investigation into the allegations against Hill. Four women reported being touched inappropriately by the Attorney General at a party following the end of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative leaders conducted their own inquiry, talking to the four accusers and two alleged witnesses, then asked Taft to provide guidance.
Attorney Blake Burgan, a Taft partner who was the sole signer of the memo reviewing the legislators’ actions and obligations in regard to the Hill investigation, signed the contract letter. He told the LSA his current hourly rate is $465.
LSA executive director George Angelone said the agency has not received any invoices from Taft for the firm’s work in connection with this investigation. Other law firms were solicited, but he would not release the names of those firms, citing attorney-client privilege and work product, among other issues.
As to why the Taft was hired, Angelone stated in an email, “The attorney was chosen based upon his specific area of expertise and practice, his impeccable qualifications, and recommendations from attorneys in other law firms that do not have a partner or employee in the General Assembly (as far as I know).”
In February 2018, the Ohio Attorney General hired Taft to look into sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the majority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. The letter appointing Taft as special counsel capped the firm’s fee at $12,000. As of June 29, the firm has billed the Buckeye State $7,962.30.
Since then, Checks and Balances Project, a watchdog group based in Virginia, has filed a grievance with the Ohio Supreme Court against the law firm for failing to disclose that the legislator it investigated and cleared, Rep. Bill Seitz, had previously been an attorney at Taft for more than 30 years.