Council OKs legal fees in sewage suits


POSTED: Thursday, February 26, 2009

The City Council approved an additional $1.75 million for lawyers' fees on two environmental lawsuits yesterday, bringing the total amount of lawyer fees to more than $9 million over the past five years.

The money will go to Bingham McCutchen, a law firm working for the city on lawsuits regarding its sewage and waste-water systems.

“;It's way too much,”; said Councilman Charles Djou, the lone dissenter against the measure. “;If we fail to win our court case, we are actually going to pay significantly more. The city administration is playing a high-risk, high-gamble strategy that I simply don't agree with.”;

But fighting some of these decisions is necessary, said Council Chairman Todd Apo.

“;I don't think anyone on the Council likes it,”; Apo said. “;I doubt anyone in the administration likes it. It's unfortunately part of the reality of enforcement.”;

The Council approved an additional $750,000 on a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the city's waste-water treatment plants, bringing the total amount in lawyer fees on this case to $2.55 million. The EPA ruled that the city is violating federal laws and must upgrade two major waste-water treatment plants, which the city says will cost more than $1 billion.

It also approved another $1 million to the same company for a lawsuit involving several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, on sewage spills. This brings the total amount on this suit, which started in 2004, to $6.486 million.

The City Council also confirmed 17 members of Hannemann's Cabinet. There weren't any problems in confirmation, other than slight opposition to Hannemann's second-in-command, Kirk Caldwell.

Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz and Djou, who frequently clash with Hannemann, voted “;kanalua”; - a way of passing on voting. If kanalua is repeated, the vote becomes yes.