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Bastrop may double budget for lawyers

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Bastrop’s City Council is poised to more than double its budget for legal fees for the current fiscal year. Although Council set aside just $220,000 to pay lawyers a few weeks ago, an item on Tuesday night’s agenda would increase that budget by $240,000. The agenda posting on the city’s website gives no clue that Council would be more than doubling their appropriation for lawyers’ fees, which have been a point of controversy in Bastrop for the past year. Instead, it reads, “first reading of an ordinance amending the budget for the fiscal year 2016 in accordance with existing statutory requirements; appropriating the various amounts herein; repealing all prior ordinances and actions in conflict herewith; and providing for an effective date.” The description leaves the reader not much more informed than before reading it. The explanation for the budget item appears on pages 105 and 106 of the agenda backup material. There is no reference to the case or cases the extra money is intended to finance. However, Council watchers can guess that at least some of those funds will be paid to Charles Bundren, Bastrop’s litigator in the case against the Pine Forest Investment Group and its principal, Robert Leffingwell. As the Austin Monitor reported on Sept. 19, Bastrop had at that time paid Bundren $723,531. The attorney for Leffingwell said he had attempted to arrange a settlement meeting with Bundren, but to no avail. The city of Bastrop, along with Bastrop County and the school district, won their case, but Leffingwell’s attorney has filed a motion for new trial, signaling his intention to pursue the matter at the 3rd Court of Appeals. The Monitor first raised the issue of Bastrop’s high legal bills in April, noting that Bastrop had paid out more than $1 million over a 15-month period. In addition, Council Member Kay McAnally, who told her colleagues she was resigning on Oct. 11, has changed her mind. The Bastrop Advertiser reported last week that McAnally said she would serve out her term, which ends in May.

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