MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach paid outside attorneys and law firms more than $500,000 in 2018, according payments in the city’s check register.
Myrtle Beach budgeted $958,000 for the city attorney’s office this fiscal year, according to its 2018-19 budget. This amount is generated from the general fund and covers four staff positions, operational expenses and for paying outside law firms.
“The city hires additional attorneys because attorneys have specialties just like doctors and dentists do, your dentist may send you to somebody else to do a root canal, for example," Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea said.
Kruea explained one attorney cannot represent the city on all legal matters.
He said the city worked with 11 law firms last year for various legal representation. However, the check register only revealed payments for five of those firms. The city spent more than $430,000 on those five firms based on check register amounts.
Battle Law Firm received 90 percent of this total. The firm received payments each month ranging from $15,000 to $53,000 in 2018.
“It is a fairly long standing relationship," Kruea said. “We use the Battle Law Firm, which is based in Conway, for a variety of things."
Lawyers from this firm represented the city on some of its big federal lawsuits, such as the suit the NAACP filed about the Black Bike Week traffic loop and the one where various downtown businesses sued over the city’s entertainment overlay district plans.
The Pearce Law Group, Ray Winters, Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis and Best Best & Krieger also received payments.
Kruea said these firms are selected by the city attorney and do not have to go through a bidding process.
WMBF also found $87,000 paid in 2018 to the Filberto Law Firm and Sauls Law Firm for public defender and indigent defense cases.
The city budgeted $189,000 for legal representation for individuals who cannot afford to hire an attorney, according to this year’s budget.
In addition to paying outside law firms, Myrtle Beach has a city attorney along with assistant city attorneys.
Kruea said the assistant attorneys are responsible for representing the city in municipal court.
He said the city attorney oversees legal matters but doesn’t generally take on individual cases.
“The city attorney is the quarterback or maybe the coach for the team that’s a good way to put it. ..very actively involved in the legal philosophy and the legal theory that goes into handling, managing a case, representing the city’s best interest in that case," Kruea said.