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London Witte to pay city expert $25k

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

The City of Marion won one round in the battle over who will foot the bill for one of the city’s expert witnesses in the Old Y litigation.

London Witte Group LLC, one of the defendants in the Old Y case, was ordered by a judge Friday to pay a total of $25,541.67 to cover the cost of the expert’s time spent in deposition in addition to the time the expert spent preparing for the deposition and responding to document requests.

That will not cover the entire check, however. The city is still responsible for a headhunter fee of $190 per hour for the expert’s time spent on the case, which according to court documents is at least 41 hours, likely more. The city used a Pensacola, Florida-based search firm called IMS ExpertServices to contract with the expert, resulting in the surcharge.

Judge Warren Haas ruled two weeks ago that London Witte was not responsible for covering the $190 surcharge, only the expert’s $625 hourly fee.

Expert witnesses are hired by parties to give testimony in an area in which they have specialized knowledge or expertise.

The city has hired both a liability expert and a damages expert to testify in the case. The city’s liability expert and the one whose fees are in question, Robert Doty, is a municipal financial advisor and a bond and securities lawyer.

The judge ruled during a hearing Friday London Witte was responsible for paying for about 41 hours of work for the 13 2/3 hours Doty spent testifying in a two-day deposition in Baltimore as well as 19.2 hours spent preparing for the deposition and another 8 hours spent responding to London Witte’s document requests.

Last week the judge also accepted a settlement agreement, removing First Farmers Bank & Trust from the litigation.

According to the settlement documents, the Converse-based bank agreed to pay the city $300,000 to end their part in the lawsuit and admitted no wrongdoing.

First Farmers had been accused by the city of breach of fiduciary duty for what the city said was a lack of proper oversight in distributing the funds for the failed renovation project.