Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bach keeps a lid on some legal work

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Mayor Steve Bach likes Hogan Lovells, an international law firm with local offices headed up by John Cook, who represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in its negotiations with the city for a new headquarters building.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach
  • Cook: An inside line on legal work.

Cook also represented Ray Marshall, the developer who was awarded the first USOC deal and later was indicted for securities fraud but was recently acquitted. (Cook didn't defend Marshall in the criminal case.) And his firm has represented University of Colorado Health in its negotiations with the city over the lease of Memorial Health System.

Although Hogan Lovells didn't work for the city at all in 2010, it's been making money since Bach took office in mid-2011. It collected $167,200 through June of this year, according to invoices obtained by the Independent.

That's not an extraordinary amount, considering the city has paid law firms millions of dollars in specialty fields, such as water rights, in the past.

What is extraordinary is Hogan Lovells' deep involvement in city legal issues. The firm is being consulted on nearly every sensitive issue taken up by Bach's regime.

Those include:

Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement: $2,585
Banning Lewis Ranch bankruptcy: $28,985
Banning Lewis Ranch oil and gas: $28,962
(These charges presumably stem from Ultra Resources' purchase of 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch out of the developer's bankruptcy. The acreage is on the city's east side, where the company wants to drill for oil and gas. Ultra is seeking to have the annexation agreement set aside or modified to enable drilling.)

City Charter: $59,482
(Bach is the first mayor elected under the strong-mayor form of government approved by voters in November 2010. As such, Bach has sought legal advice on how much power he can exert. He also is trying to gain control of Colorado Springs Utilities, which the Charter now places under the control of City Council. More on that later. But here's a question: Really? City Attorney Chris Melcher has no one in his office with a thorough knowledge of the Charter?)

General employment advice: $6,082

Litigation avoidance: $4,121
(Perhaps here it's worth noting that Bach has gotten rid of several long-serving officials, including deputy city manager Nancy Johnson, Police Chief Richard Myers, finance director Terry Velasquez and public information manager Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, though the latter two were bounced by then-acting city manager Steve Cox before Bach took office. Cox then became Bach's chief of staff and later his economic vitality guru. He resigned right after the Waldo Canyon Fire.)

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Hogan Lovells

And then there's the $37,000 Bach gave Hogan Lovells for advice on topics that are so secret, his administration won't give citizens even a general idea of the purpose of the legal work. Of the 39 bills the city has received from Hogan Lovells since Bach hired the firm, 11 were submitted for reasons that Bach doesn't want people to know about; the purpose of "engagement" is redacted from the invoices. (All invoices are redacted for details of what, exactly, the attorneys did for the money they were paid — attorney-client privilege and all that.)

But we do know which Hogan Lovells attorneys did the work. Those include Cook himself, and these folks, whose bio information is taken from the firm's website:

Marianne Hallinan regularly counsels employers on a wide range of employment-related concerns, including employee discipline and discharge, workplace investigations, wage and hour matters, negotiation and drafting of executive employment contracts and restrictive covenants, and large-scale reductions-in-force.

Marianne's practice also includes the representation of employers in employment discrimination, wrongful discharge, and breach of employment contract lawsuits and administrative claims. In addition, she has experience with general civil litigation.

Chantell Taylor is an attorney in our Denver office, advising clients on government regulation and legislative matters with an overall focus on public law.

Chantell has extensive experience in campaign finance and political law. She has also advised nonprofit organizations on obtaining and maintaining tax-exempt status, corporate governance, employment matters, lobbying and political activities.

Edward C. Dolan represents lenders, lessors, equity holders, vendors, unsecured creditors, asset purchasers, and debtors in all aspects of workouts, insolvency proceedings, and asset dispositions. Ed is a member of the board of directors and a past President of the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the District of Maryland, and is a member and past President of the Walter Chandler Bankruptcy Inn of Court. Ed has also served as Chair of the D.C. Bar's Bankruptcy Committee, the Standing Committee on local rules of the U.S. States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland, the Montgomery County and Prince George's County Bar Associations' Bankruptcy Sections, as a member of the Board of Governors of the Maryland Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and as a member of the U.S. Department of State's Study Group on Cross-Border Insolvencies.

Ed has written and spoken on commercial workouts, bankruptcy financing, use of cash collateral, lien perfection and enforcement, creditors' rights, intellectual property rights in bankruptcy, distressed real estate, environmental liability, and lender liability.

Craig Umbaugh focuses his practice in the areas of governmental and legislative law, finance, sports and sports facilities law, and banking and commercial transactions. Craig works with public entities and private clients advising them on issues such as urban redevelopment, negotiation of governmental agreements, elections, financing, construction, design, operation of stadiums and public venues, and the acquisition or relocation of teams. Craig serves as general counsel to the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, and The Colorado Bankers Association. He has extensive experience in drafting legislation and counseling clients with respect to state legislative issues. He has advised various clients on election matters, including the conduct of elections, campaign finance reporting, ballot titles, and initiatives and referenda.

In addition to the Football District and the Baseball District, Craig's involvement with sports and sports facilities includes Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Connecticut Sun, Denver Nuggets, Pepsi Center, Hennepin County (Minnesota Twins Ballpark), Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Denver Grand Prix.

Consulting with Umbaugh might stem from Bach's interest in getting rid of the city's coal-fired Drake Power Plant, which sits in a prime downtown location for a sports venue. It's also near the southwest urban renewal area where Bach's developer friends have for years imagined a sports stadium anchoring retail, office and residential development. Bach has said that he wants the Sky Sox to relocate there, although the Triple-A ball club has said it's not interested because its Stetson Hills facility is paid for.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach
  • Bach: He likes Hogan Lovells.

Regardless, the question arises: How does Cook's outfit gain such a hold over Bach? Of course, we can't say for sure, but campaign finance reports show Hogan Lovells was a player during the campaign: Cook contributed $900 to Bach's campaign before the May runoff, as did a Hogan Lovells associate. Hogan Lovells contributed $3,495 on April 19, 2011, to Bach's campaign for in-kind "legal advice re: corporate campaign contribution investigation." Total: $5,295.

Hogan Lovells also was on the receiving end. The firm received payment from the Bach campaign of:
• $6,922 on June 1, 2011, for "legal fees/campaign finance"
• $7,188 on July 15, 2011, for "legal fees/campaign finance," and
• $1,000 on Sept. 26, 2011, for "legal fees/campaign finance."
Total: $15,110.

In addition, Bach reported paying legal fees to an unnamed company of $5,501 on April 19, 2011, for "legal advice re: corporate campaign contribution investigation."

For his part, Melcher says he watches the billings like a hawk, and tracks how much time outside counsel is spending.

Here's a sample of redacted billing from Hogan Lovells:

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Hogan Lovells

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