This kind of thing probably happens so much that we’d be sick if it was all reported: A band of DC lawyers, hired by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to press his environmental “nuisance” case against the Tennessee Valley Authority (bad neighbors, ya know), go hog wild at NC taxpayer expense. My pal (and AmSpec contributor) David Bass at Carolina Journal (the John Locke Foundation newspaper) discovered it:
Invoices show that a Resolution paralegal was reimbursed almost $7,000 last year for a month-long stay at an upscale Washington, D.C., hotel. But airline receipts indicate that she was present at the hotel only 12 out of 29 nights, incurring more than $4,000 in unused room fees.
Other records show that Cooper’s office reimbursed Resolution’s lead counsel in the TVA case nearly $500 for a flight between Asheville and Washington that he never took.
As reported by CJ in March, Cooper also repaid Resolution lawyers for alcohol, candy, airline flight upgrades, and valet parking, in addition to paying the Ayres Law Group, a second firm assisting with the TVA case, up to $515 per hour in legal fees.
The reimbursements in part came from $1.7 million in gas-tax revenue and inspection and maintenance fees that Cooper’s office transferred from the N.C. Division of Air Quality to help meet TVA litigation expenses. DAQ is planning to cut 25 staff positions in the fiscal year that began Wednesday; budget constraints caused by the transfers are cited as one reason for the agency’s reduction in personnel.
Hey government watchdogs, this is an easy one: Request expense reports of subcontracted lawyers from your state’s Department of Justice. Undoubtedly you will find something amiss.