The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 25, 2014

Nevada city attorney to advise Neosho Ethics Board for $250 an hour

NEOSHO, Mo. — Attorney Bill McCaffree will be paid $250 an hour as special legal counsel to the Neosho Ethics Board as it investigates a complaint against two members of the Neosho City Council.

The council met Friday morning to approve the deal with McCaffree, who is the city attorney at Nevada, Mo.

The agreement includes a cap of $5,000.

“The hourly charge is $250 per hour to be calculated on time devoted to representation, research and that portion of travel time which takes me out of the office during normal office hours,” McCaffree wrote in a letter to City Manager Troy Royer. “You have an allowance of $5,000. I am to advise you if and when the time expended approaches that sum.”

Royer said McCaffree would inform the city well before he approaches the $5,000 cap.

“I know that attorneys make good money, but I hope he doesn’t come anywhere near that amount,” Councilman Charles Collinsworth said.

McCaffree will provide legal advice to the Neosho Ethics Board as it investigates a complaint filed against City Council members David Ruth and Steve Hart. The complaint, filed by Derek Snyder, alleges instances of improper dealings with city employees, improper use of public property, disclosing confidential information, and improper influence.

City Attorney Steve Hays withdrew as legal counsel for the ethics board after Bruce Copeland, attorney representing Hart and Ruth, cited an appearance of a conflict of interest. Snyder, who filed the complaint, is a law student at the University of Tulsa and is a friend of Hays, and interned in Hays’ office last summer.

The vote on the agreement with McCaffree was 3-2, with Hart and Ruth voting against it.

There is a vacancy on the ethics board. Tim Lewis, who was serving as chairman, resigned, saying the board was disorganized and was “shooting from the hip.”

Mayor Richard Davidson said after the council meeting that the ethics board probably would proceed with two members, because adding another board member now and informing the member of the evidence heard so far would be difficult. He said any decision would require agreement by both members.

McCaffree wrote in his letter to Royer that he has researched the issues.

“I obtained a copy of the complaint and have reviewed and summarized it thoroughly,” McCaffree wrote. “I have also reviewed the city charter, especially provisions relating to council member prohibitions and forfeiture, as well as the duties of the city manager.”

He wrote that the Neosho city code is similar to the Nevada city code.

The next meeting date of the Neosho Ethics Board had not been set as of Friday. The next step for the board may be a formal hearing.

Travel time

There is no provision in the city’s agreement with Bill McCaffree to charge the city with expenses in addition to his fee. Expenses could include meals and a separate mileage rate. As it is, the approximately 90-minute travel time from Nevada to Neosho and back at the rate of $250 an hour would pay about $750, if the portion of travel time is outside of normal office hours.

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