By Frank Lewis
Portsmouth City Council is to give first reading to an ordinance authorizing payment of legal fees incurred by First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson when he was challenged to get outside legal assistance by Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas.
Johnson was involved in advocating for taking to voters the option of doing away with the election of the Solictor and the City Auditor, and making those jobs appointments. On April 28 of this year, Haas told Council that since it involved his position, he could no longer represent them and that they needed to hire outside counsel.
Haas told Council he could not assist then on the public records requests because the subject of the requests dealt with the attempt to eliminate his position and to place the city’s legal counsel under the control of City Council. With all that said, Haas placed City Council on notice that he would not be providing legal advice on those issues and that Council would need to hire outside counsel.
At the same meeting City Auditor Trent Williams said he felt similar to Haas as his job too was being discussed.
Johnson then enlisted the services of Portsmouth attorney Steven C. Rodeheffer, who has now provided the city with an invoice for the services he provided Johnson during that time. The invoice shows a balance due of $500.
The invoice includes a conference with Johnson, drafting of documents in responses to Haas’s comments and work on revisions.
The cover letter from Johnson to Williams accompanying the invoice calls for prompt payment.
“I ask that this invoice be paid expeditiously and, further, suggest it be paid from Department 105 funds,” Johnson said in the correspondence.
Since it was discovered that Johnson and then-Mayor Steve Sturgill had been working on plans to try to bring the issue to the table to eventually be taken to voters, Sturgill resigned because he moved from the city and Johnson withdrew the proposal, saying it was the wrong time for the legislation.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.